Original Work Atomic Destiny

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Grand58742, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Ouch...(re: the last line)

    I'm curious as to what the other 10 or 20 pirates are doing...can't see them splitting the booty more than necessary.
  2. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

  3. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 26

    Bella paused her typing for a moment and let out a deep sigh. “I know.”

    She resumed gaining control of the systems as there was yet another uncomfortable silence between the two. Which Lilly felt something needed to be said to fill the gap. “That’s it?”

    “What do you want me to say? Atta girl? Best of luck? Go get ‘em tiger?” asked Bella as she stopped and faced Lilly. “Or get all mad and we have a battle royale in which the victor takes the spoils?”

    “No,” said Lilly meekly as she averted her eyes to the floor.

    “You do realize we’re engaged,” said Bella as a statement more than a question.

    “Yeah,” said Lilly as she still wouldn’t look Bella in the eyes.

    “Look, I know you’ve got a crush from the way you look at him,” said Bella. “But before this turns into a scene from a really bad movie, it’s just not in your cards.”

    “I know,” said Lilly as she stared at the floor. “I just felt you needed to know since we might not have a lot of time left.”

    “I’m not sure why telling me was so important,” said Bella.

    “Clearing my conscience I suppose,” said Lilly.

    “Have you told Colt?” asked Bella.

    “No, I’m not that brave,” said Lilly with a nervous chuckle and looked at Bella.

    “But brave enough to tell his fiancée,” said Bella. “As long as we’re putting it all out on the table, I love Colt too. With every milligram of my being, I love that man. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I got to him first. And I fell in love with the way he loves me. And continuing to be blunt, there’s just not room in our life for you.”

    “I know,” said Lilly as she stared at the floor again. “It’s just…you know?”

    “No, not really,” said Bella. “You’re a cute girl and all and eventually you’ll find a man that loves you the way you love him. Unfortunately for you, that’s not Colt.”

    “I understand,” said Lilly without looking directly at her.

    “Is this going to be a problem?” asked Bella.

    “No,” said Lilly as she finally looked at Bella. “I’m a realist and accept it.”

    “I know it’s going to hurt,” said Bella being a little sympathetic. “I completely understand the pain you’re going to go through as I’ve been there before myself. But it will pass eventually and you’ll forget that what’s-his-name ever existed.”

    “He’s a great guy so I doubt that,” said Lilly.

    “See, you can’t think of him that way,” said Bella. “It only makes it worse.”

    “I mean he’s a good man,” said Lilly.

    “He is a good man,” agreed Bella. “But this is where the conversation ends.”

    “I’m sorry,” said Lilly.

    “Don’t be,” said Bella as she completely understood where she was coming from as Colt had a way of capturing the heart and not letting go. But she also knew she was rightful in staking her claim over him and nipping anything else in the bud, even if it meant hurting Lilly in the process. But Bella didn’t care about hurting others when it came to Colt and would sacrifice the world for him if it came down to it.


    “What do you mean you can’t get through?” demanded Ishmael. “It’s a door, open it.”

    “Impossible,” said the computer expert.

    “I don’t want to hear impossible!” thundered Ishmael.

    “Look, I’ve replaced the wiring, but the door is covered in Smart Metal and it attached itself to the frame. You could blow the entire ship up and this door would still be intact,” said the expert.

    “So we can’t get in to check the stasis pods?” asked Ishmael.

    “No,” said the expert. “All the doors are covered in the same manner, including the adjacent compartments doors leading in.”

    “And how did it get there?” asked Ishmael.

    “If I was to guess, it got there from someone that didn’t get put into stasis,” said the expert as he looked at the other pirate responsible for that task.

    “Hey! I checked each and every name against the manifest you gave me!” exclaimed the pirate.

    “It appears you missed someone,” said the expert and eyeballed the pirate. And in turn, got punched in the face before the remainder of the group got the two separated.

    “Enough of this!” thundered Ishmael. “I’ll kill the next person that opens their mouth without a direct question from me! Understand?”

    The group looked at him and the fact his hand was resting on top of the pistol at his waist. And saw the serious look on his face.

    “How do we get in?” asked Ishmael once he had everyone’s attention.

    “Unless you have the original controller, you can’t get the material away from the door,” said the expert. “I’m just being honest.”

    “What about going through the bulkhead?” asked Ishmael.

    “Could have been a possibility had we not picked one of the strongest cargo compartments to stow the crew in,” said the expert. “The walls are twenty centimeters thick and reinforced against possible explosions of the cargo.”

    “So I take it that’s a no?” asked Ishmael.

    “It can be done, but it won’t be easy,” said the expert.

    “Do it,” said Ishmael as he looked at two of the other pirates. “I want in that compartment.”

    “Yes sir,” said the two as they departed to find a fusion cutter to get into the compartment.

    “And where are we on accessing the core?” asked Ishmael.

    “Lost even more control than we had before,” said the expert. “I was on my way to the shuttle to see if it could be locked out of the core systems.”

    “Can we get our shuttle out?” asked Ishmael.

    “Sure,” said the expert. “The cargo bay doors have a manual feature so we can roll out your shuttle if we need to. Not sure about the one that came with the ship.”

    “Find out,” said Ishmael with a nod of his head as he stared at the door to the compartment where they had stowed the crew. “And I want every available person to sweep this ship.”

    “Yes sir,” said another of the pirates.

    “I want them found,” said Ishmael. “And I want them alive.”

    “Yes sir,” said the group as they departed.

    “So I can kill them myself,” said Ishmael under his breath.


    “Bella, I’m outside,” said Colt from the exterior of the bridge.

    “Hang on,” she replied and nodded towards the door at Lilly. Lilly grabbed the controller and went to the door to remove the Smart Metal patch and opened them just enough for Colt to slip in before closing it and reapplying the patch.

    “Thanks,” said Colt as he entered and saw Bella still at work.

    “No problem,” said Lilly in a subdued tone as she turned back to her communications station where she attempted to do whatever she could to get the systems back online. Colt headed over to Bella and saw she was doing far better than before.

    “I’ve managed to get about half,” said Bella.

    “Great,” said Colt as he gave her a kiss from the side and earned a smile in the process.

    “Do you have all the communications back yet?” asked Lilly.

    “I’m honestly just going down the list,” said Bella. “Do you know the program numbers?”

    “Some, hang on,” said Lilly as she walked over. “Try the ones that start with 7A.”

    “Okay,” said Bella as she jumped back in and started working the selected portions of the systems as Lilly looked over her shoulder. Bella didn’t see many communications systems for the moment, but came to one that looked unusual.

    “Whoa,” said Bella. “This is weird.”

    “What is it?” asked Lilly who had been quiet until that point.

    “Some odd coding here in this program,” said Bella.

    “Bring it back up,” said Lilly.

    “I’ll come back to it,” said Bella. “I don’t want to mess around with a program I’m not familiar with. Especially one that’s tied into navigation.”

    “Look, you aren’t the only whiz kid on this ship,” said Lilly. “Bring it back up.”

    Bella stopped and brought the program back up. She opened the coding as Lilly traced her finger down the screen.

    “That’s…Zhao coding,” said Lilly.

    “You sure?” said Bella.

    “Positive,” said Lilly. “These are trademark Zhao communications protocols.”

    “What’s it doing here?” asked Bella.

    “You said they downloaded programs off the memory crystal into the core, right?” asked Lilly.

    “I’ve isolated all those,” said Bella. “I checked the time stamps on them. This one is way older than those were.”

    “Keep scrolling,” said Lilly as she continued to read the code. “It’s communicating our position through another wormhole channel.”

    “I thought all the channels were jammed,” said Colt as he heard Sanchez call in they were almost at the bridge. He headed to the door and checked the sensors as well as the cameras and she and McMasters came into view and were allowed access.

    “They are,” said Lilly. “Ours are I mean. This one is independent and has parameters set outside their jamming device.”

    “Is it transmitting from an Infinicon device?” asked Bella.

    “No,” said Lilly. “Ours are set to ranges well outside of this.”

    “Can we take it over?” asked Colt as he returned to the station. “Try reaching an independent station with it?”

    “It won’t be easy to find,” said Lilly. “You’ve seen the size of our communicators. Zhao units are about the same size most of the time. But this one is simple. It’s transmitting the position of the ship and nothing else.”

    “How do you know this?” asked Bella.

    “Before I came on board, I worked with the Infinicon Technical Services,” said Lilly. “We did analysis on other corporation’s devices our security services stole. And I’m telling you right now we have a Zhao device transmitting on our ship.”

    “It was installed while we were at Pluto,” said Bella. “How could they get into the ship much less the core without someone finding out?”

    “They do all sorts of maintenance while we’re in port with teams coming and going,” said Colt. “It wouldn’t be hard for one of their espionage teams to come on and put it here.”

    “Someone would have noticed I’d hope,” said Bella.

    “We steal their stuff and they don’t notice,” said Lilly. “Why would they be any different?”

    “Can you disable it?” asked Colt.

    “Not without overriding the safety protocols,” said Bella. “Which this one is labeled yet again as a safety protocol.”

    “Speaking of safety,” said Sanchez as she passed over some food that didn’t require preparation to the others. They all scarfed it down without hesitation since they hadn’t had anything appreciable to eat in some time. “They are sweeping the ship right now.”

    “Any place in particular?” asked Colt.

    “No, just randomly looking,” said McMasters as he took a bite of a sandwich.

    “Let’s see where they are at,” said Colt as he looked over the tablet. “It looks like they are moving more from the rear of the ship forward and searching the living quarters. But here’s four that kind of look suspicious.”

    He brought up the security cameras in the corridor where the room with the stasis pods were located and saw two men getting a fusion cutter ready at the wall. And two more that were supposed to be on lookout duty, but looked completely bored.

    “How many total on here?” asked Colt.

    “We counted twenty-six,” said Sanchez. “But since the sensors are out in part of the ship, it’s hard to get an accurate number. Could be higher.”

    “So thirty give or take,” said Colt. “I’m all about decreasing that number down.”

    “Now you’re talking,” said McMasters as he finished the sandwich and checked his carbine.

    “Are you up for it?” asked Colt.

    “Yeah, I’m doing okay,” said McMasters.

    “You sure?” asked Colt. “Turn left.”

    McMasters turned to the left just in time to see a bottle flying towards his head that had been tossed by Sanchez. He managed to snatch it out of the air before it hit him.

    “Satisfied?” he asked.

    “Yeah,” said Colt. “But we need to work out a plan.”

    “I’ll stay here and watch these two,” said Sanchez as she immediately saw where Colt was going with his ideas. “You two take care of those guys even though it’ll take a really long time to get that bulkhead cut.”

    “Got it,” said Colt as he readied his weapons and checked the cameras. But before he was able to leave, he turned to find Bella right behind him.

    “You be careful,” she said. “Please be careful.”

    “I will,” said Colt. “I promise.”

    “I don’t have to be careful huh?” asked McMasters.

    “Yes Brent, be careful as well,” said Bella with a half a smile and a roll of her eyes.

    “Meh, I ain’t got nobody to leave behind except for a couple of simulations,” said McMasters with a grin. “And boy, they’ll get lonely.”

    “Okay, the guards look really distracted,” said Sanchez as she checked the camera.

    “Let’s roll,” said Colt.

    “I won’t let anything happen to him,” said McMasters as he saw Bella watching with a concerned look on his face. Sanchez opened the blast doors and the two departed from the bridge, moving along the corridor while listening to Sanchez given them updates on where the pirates were.

    “I’m not sure I like approaching from the corridor,” said Colt.

    “Well, let’s be pirates ourselves,” said McMasters as he pulled a knife from his pocket and quickly cut off the arms of the jumpsuit he was wearing. Taking a bandana from his pocket, he tied it up on his head. Colt was still wearing his civilian clothing, but looked far too neat for what he wanted and snatched the bandana from McMasters and used it himself.

    “We look pretty ridiculous,” remarked Colt.

    “I told you to grow a beard,” said McMasters.

    “Plan?” asked Colt.

    “I’ll get the ones on the security detail, you get the ones using the cutter,” said McMasters.

    “Got it,” said Colt as they headed back down the corridor. Once they made the turn, the pirates on guard duty initially looked alarmed, but gave them a second look and couldn’t decide who they were. However, they were well within range when McMasters slightly overtook Colt and got his weapon online. The pirate opened his mouth to shout an alarm, but the suppressed rounds from the carbine found their mark before he had a chance to yell. Colt raised his weapon as the other three turned to find out why the first had fallen to the floor and were hit in short order themselves.

    “Four down,” said McMasters. “Twenty-six to go.”

    “Or so,” said Colt as they looked over the group. McMasters pulled one of the jackets off the dead pirate and handed it over to Colt.

    “It’s probably a bit small for me,” said Colt.

    “Not everyone can be linebacker sized,” said McMasters. “Cut the sleeves off and put it on.”

    “Right,” said Colt as he pulled his pocket knife and quickly cut the sleeves off. However, it really was too small for him as he tried to put it on.

    “Never mind,” said McMasters with a laugh.

    “Four more approaching from the stern,” warned Sanchez through the communicator.

    “Grab these guys,” said McMasters as they quickly opened the door to the compartment in the middle of the ship. They just managed to get them all inside and headed back out where McMasters picked up the fusion cutter and made it look like he was attempting to fix the device.

    “Play along,” he said. “Check the power unit or something.”

    “Right,” said Colt who was about to jump out of his skin. He went over as instructed and started looking over the power unit as if it was malfunctioning.

    “I’d get a move on,” called one of the pirates as he approached. “Ishmael will skin you alive if he sees you aren’t working.”

    “Damn thing shut down,” said McMasters. “You all know anything about fusion cutters?”

    “Yeah, hang on,” said the pirate as Colt saw him sling up the shotgun he was carrying and the remainder relaxed a bit as they approached. Apparently all was good in the pirate world as they appeared to accept the two as they walked up.

    “Where’s the other two?” asked the pirate in the lead as he approached.

    “Takin a break,” said McMasters who turned and saw they were within range. He turned to the group and pulled the pistol from his belt and fired at them, catching them completely off guard. He managed to hit three of the group as Colt pulled his pistol and shoved it right in the mouth of the one standing next to him. McMasters casually stood up and delivered kill shots to the remainder of the group that hadn’t received fatal blows in the first volley.

    “Really?” asked Colt.

    “You want them getting into the medical station, getting revived and coming back after us?” asked McMasters. “But I see you took one alive. Good thinking.”

    “Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked Colt as the shotgun was ripped from the man’s back along with the pistol belt.

    “We’re here to take over this ship,” said the pirate.

    “Yeah, that much is obvious,” said Colt. “Who sent you?”

    “Ishmael contacted us and brought us along,” said the pirate.

    “Who is Ishmael?” asked Colt. He saw the pirate hesitate before McMasters shoved his pistol into the side of the man’s head.

    “The man asked you a question,” said McMasters. “You think he might not kill you, but you know for a fact I won’t hesitate.”

    “I don’t know!” said the pirate with a slight quiver in his voice. “We’ve never worked together before and got hired on for this job!”

    “Hired by whom?” asked Colt.

    “Ishmael!” said the pirate as McMasters dug in his pistol again. “He said we’d get paid in full once the job was finished!”

    “How many of you are there?” asked McMasters.

    “Dunno, maybe twenty-five or thirty,” said the pirate. “I didn’t count.”

    “And what is the job at hand?” asked Colt.

    “I don’t know, okay?” said the pirate. “All I know is we were supposed to help secure the ship and fly it to Earth!”

    “You really aren’t much good to us,” remarked McMasters as he dug the pistol in again.

    “I’m telling you the truth!” said the pirate. “I’m just a-”

    The pirate’s voice was cut off as shots were heard and his body showed the impacts. Colt and McMasters quickly dropped to the ground to see another three pirates advancing in the corridor and firing as they went. McMasters quickly recovered and fired a burst down the hallway as Colt retrieved the carbine from its sling and did the same. He switched over magazines to the high explosive projectiles hoping some of the minor explosions would cause fragments that would wound the attackers.

    “Bound back to Section 8!” shouted McMasters as he fired again and hit one of the pirates. Colt quickly bounded back and got in a covered position in one of the side corridors before laying down fire as well. McMasters quickly darted back to the corridor and came in behind Colt as another pirate was hit in the exchange.

    “You okay?” asked Colt.

    “Got grazed,” said McMasters as he saw the blood on his arm. “But I’ll be fine.”

    “What now?” asked Colt.

    “We play cat and mouse,” said McMasters. “Don’t let yourself get holed up in one location and let them come to you.”

    “What about the bridge?” asked Colt.

    “They’ll be okay,” said McMasters. “They ain’t getting through the doors there.”

    Colt noticed an emergency aid kit on the wall next to a fire extinguisher and fished out a medical patch. McMasters quickly applied it with a grunt and made sure it was sealed before telling Colt to watch their rear as they headed towards another corridor. They heard a large group approaching and ducked into the maintenance passageway before watching eight of the pirates heading towards the bridge.

    “Becky, looks like you’ve got company,” said McMasters over the communicator.

    “Yep, we see it,” said Sanchez. “Any chance of you reducing that number a bit?”

    “I’m brave, but not stupid,” said McMasters. “Find us a smaller group.”

    “Head towards engineering,” said Sanchez. “There are two guarding the corridor leading in.”

    “Got it,” said McMasters. “C’mon hero, let’s move.”

    “Right,” said Colt as he felt his heart still pounding from the near miss they had earlier. As they traveled through the maintenance passageway, they saw the single pirate from earlier on the deck outside as he peeked down the corridor.

    “Becky, anyone else in the port main passageway?” whispered Colt.

    “No,” said Becky.

    “You get the door, I’ll take the shot,” whispered McMasters. They found the doorway leading into the passageway and Colt got ready to open the door as he took a knee. McMasters was already aiming as Colt hit the button to activate the sliding door and moved back. McMasters quickly fired three single shots and hit the button himself to close the doorway.

    “Did you get him?” asked Colt.

    “Want to go out in that corridor and check?” asked McMasters.

    “I’ll be okay,” said Colt.

    “You’re almost at Marine status,” said McMasters.

    “Where did you learn all this stuff?” asked Colt.

    “Marines,” said McMasters. “I was with a unit that practiced retaking ships. And more specifically, I was on the Red Team that simulated the pirates.”

    “So you’ve played this game before?” asked Colt.

    “Never for real,” said McMasters. “But sweat more in training.”

    “Bleed less in combat,” said Colt. “My Drill Instructor pounded that into our heads.”

    “As did mine,” said McMasters as they approached the stern of the ship and the junction where the maintenance passageway ended and they would have to come out into the main corridor. After checking the sensors, they found the two hadn’t moved and another three were inside the engineering section.

    “We’ll take the ones on the outside and then clear engineering,” said McMasters.

    “Got it,” said Colt nervously as he wondered what was happening on the bridge.


    “Blow it down,” said Ishmael.

    “It’s covered the same way the one in the corridor was,” said the computer expert.

    “I said blow it down!” exclaimed Ishmael as he ripped two explosive grenades from one of the men with him. Pulling the pins, he dropped them at the doorway and moved around the corner casually until the concussion from the explosion knocked them all off their feet.

    “Are you crazy?!” yelled the expert as he got up. “I told you it wouldn’t work!”

    “I felt like doing it!” growled Ishmael as he grabbed the expert by the collar and slammed him against the wall. “Very relaxing!”

    “Same Smart Metal over the door,” said another pirate. “And the blast doors here are thicker than the rest of them.”

    “Find a way in,” said Ishmael. “Now!”

    “Ventilation ducts?” asked one pirate.

    “Don’t ask, just do!” exclaimed Ishmael as he pointed.

    “He seems rather irate,” remarked Sanchez from the interior of the bridge.

    “That’s a mild understatement,” chuckled Bella as she peeked over at the security camera.

    “They can’t get in, right?” asked Lilly as she banged on the console at her station again.

    “No, I sealed off the ventilation shafts coming in and the door is as secure as we can get it. They can’t shut down life support to this section either,” said Bella. “There isn’t another way in except going outside the ship and coming in through the airlock…”

    All three looked at each other at the same time and came to the same thought. Sanchez went over to the airlock and opened the inner door. After checking the outer door, she removed the panel and disabled the motors that would open the door. And unless they pried it open, would remain shut and locked for the time being. After returning inside, she did the same to the inner door by disabling the motors and disconnecting the panel.

    “Now we’re officially locked in,” said Sanchez.

    “Good call on the airlock,” said Lilly with a nod towards Bella.

    “I want to make it through this just as bad as you do,” said Bella.

    “Are the others okay?” asked Sanchez.

    “Look to be,” said Bella as she checked the sensors as she had constantly since Colt had departed. “I think they are heading into engineering.”

    “Yep,” said Sanchez as she saw the two guards fall to the floor in the camera. “Now how do they dig out the ones inside?”

    Sanchez got on the communicator and told the pair exactly where the three were at inside the engineering section. She watched as they entered and immediately started picking off the two that were closest to the door. However, the third was deep within engineering as Sanchez directed them towards him.

    “Be careful,” said Sanchez. “Engineering isn’t a friendly place for stray bullets.”

    “Yeah, tell him that,” said McMasters as she heard him firing towards the individual that had taken cover behind a piece of equipment.

    “Pull back,” said Sanchez.

    “Why?” asked Colt.

    “Because they are trying to trap you,” said Sanchez. “There are two groups of five heading right for you on the lower corridor.”

    “Smart pirates,” said McMasters as the pair withdrew out the door and covering themselves as they left. They managed to get through the passageway and into the upper maintenance corridor as they saw the group moving towards engineering.

    “They seem a bit pissed,” remarked McMasters.

    “Ya think?” asked Colt as they went in and immediately started shooting. They had no idea the two had departed and immediately started firing on the first targets in the room. And caught each other in a friendly fire incident claiming another three.

    “Three more down,” said Sanchez. “The group that was trying to get into the bridge has departed and is heading…towards engineering.”

    “Might be a good chance for us to head back towards you,” said Colt. “We’ve taken out about half and the rest are going to be far more cautious now.”

    “I don’t like the fact there are those packages in engineering,” said Sanchez.

    “As we talked about before, I don’t think they’ll go down with the ship,” said Colt.

    “Still could set a timer,” said Sanchez.

    “They could,” said Colt. “We’re heading towards you to regroup and figure out what we’re doing next.”

    “Timer on what?” asked Bella.

    “We didn’t want to say anything, but there may be bombs on board,” said Sanchez.

    “And you felt this wasn’t information we all needed to know?” asked Bella.

    “At the time, no,” said Sanchez. “You needed to concentrate on getting control of the ship back and not worry about something out of our control as it was.”

    “What do you mean out of our control?” asked Lilly.

    “As in probably booby-trapped and unstable,” said Sanchez. “Look, I just don’t have the talents for disarming bombs. None of us do.”

    “Still would have liked to have known,” said Bella.

    “And had you? What difference would it have made?” asked Sanchez.

    “Sorry,” said Bella. “I’m just worried about us all.”

    “It looks like the pirates are falling back,” said Sanchez.

    “Where are Colt and McMasters?” asked Lilly.

    “Should be here in a couple of minutes,” said Sanchez. “They’re using the maintenance passageways so they are safe and ahead of the pirates.”

    “Why are they gathering?” asked Bella.

    “Probably working out a plan of some sort,” said Sanchez.


    “Well, you idiots managed to get half of our group killed,” said Ishmael after everyone had gathered up. “Get ready to depart.”

    “Depart where?” asked the computer expert.

    “Away from here, off the ship, so on and so forth,” said Ishmael.

    “We haven’t accomplished the mission yet,” said one of the pirates.

    “Yeah, and we won’t be able to either since we lost control,” said Ishmael.

    “We didn’t lose the ship,” said one of the pirates as he looked at the computer expert.

    “I had no way of knowing the core would reject our programs!” he objected.

    “Well obviously you suck,” said the pirate.

    “Enough!” thundered Ishmael. “It’s like I’m dealing with children!”

    “I don’t like the fact most of my men were killed,” said the pirate.

    “I’d think you should just be happy to be alive,” said Ishmael as he raised his voice. “But with the way things are going, we’re all probably going to wind up dead since you can’t find the people killing us!”

    “So now what?” asked one of the pirates.

    “I’ll need four of you to stick around,” said Ishmael as he pointed them out as he pulled a small tablet from his pocket. “You two go to engineering and set a timer on the bombs. You two go get the ship’s shuttle ready to go. You take the crew in the Trident and head out and we’ll take the shuttle and meet you…here.”

    “Is someone coming to meet us?” asked one of the pirates as he looked over the star charts.

    “Yes, the Ares will meet us all there,” said Ishmael.

    “And what are you going to do?” asked the computer expert.

    “Rig the ship to explode,” said Ishmael. “I know it’s not what Zhao wants, but we don’t have a choice. We can’t get control back of the ship and even if we kill everyone, we still won’t. So as a minimum, we’ll rig the bombs to go up and destroy this ship.”

    “We might not get paid,” said the pirate.

    “A choice between getting killed when Infinicon finally tracks this ship down or escaping to live another day,” said Ishmael. “Call me a coward, but I’d rather live.”

    “I see your point,” said the pirate.

    “Get going,” said Ishmael. The pirates started heading out towards the main cargo deck as the four that were picked stayed around.

    “What are you doing?” asked the computer expert.

    “I’m going to go secure us a ride,” said Ishmael.
  4. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 27

    “I was so worried about you!” exclaimed Bella as Colt and McMasters came back onto the bridge and the door was sealed behind them.

    “I’m okay baby,” said Colt as she practically jumped into his arms. “I promise.”

    “I know, but I’m still allowed to worry,” said Bella.

    “How’s everything going?” he asked.

    “I’ve gotten a lot more headway with getting the ship under control,” said Bella. “Pretty close to where we would be able to fly it to the nearest outpost and get help.”

    “I like the sound of that,” said Colt.

    “There is a problem though,” said Sanchez. “It appears the pirates might be departing.”

    “And the bombs?” asked Colt.

    “Still there from what we know,” said Sanchez. “However, we have the main group of fourteen still standing around in the cargo bay and another four at random points through the ship.”

    “Why haven’t they left yet?” asked McMasters.

    “I don’t know,” said Sanchez. “But it appears two might be heading towards engineering. They were about there and had to double back.”

    “Not good,” said Colt. “If they arm those bombs…”

    “We can head them off if we move quickly,” said Sanchez.

    “So are we just going to let the ones go?” asked McMasters.

    “We aren’t in a position to fight back yet,” said Bella. “I’ve got three of the cannons back into manual mode, but nothing automated yet.”

    “And I’ve gotten nowhere with the communications,” said Lilly. “Whatever they did, it shut down everything we have.”

    “I’ve got an idea about that,” said Bella. “It might sound kind of goofy though.”

    “Goofy we can do,” said Sanchez. “We haven’t done anything conventional in a while now.”

    “Well, this ship is equipped with more escape pods that it needs, right?” asked Bella.

    “Yes, we have over three hundred,” said Colt.

    “Well, if whatever is jamming us is localized to this ship, maybe we can leave a trail of breadcrumbs so to speak,” said Bella.

    “It might take them a while to get out of range of whatever jammer they are using,” said Lilly. “I mean, I started having trouble with my communications equipment at around fifty kilometers.”

    “Yes, but we can reprogram the pods, right?” asked Bella.

    “Reprogram them for what?” asked McMasters.

    “From what I remember, the pods are programmable for distance and speed,” said Bella. “At least the old WGE ones were. Mainly because you didn’t want escape pods within a certain distance if say the reactors went critical or something. So the old ones let you program in an escape speed and even a stopping point so you could wait for a rescue.”

    “She’s right,” said Sanchez. “The escape velocities are preprogrammed into the pods depending on what kind of escape is needed. And they will come to a stop if needed as well.”

    “Okay, so we send out a pod with a message on it,” said McMasters. “There’s still a lot of space to cover if someone discovers it in time.”

    “Except we can use multiple pods,” said Lilly as she saw where Bella was going with the idea. “Maybe six to triangulate our position in space. Send them out to a range of say two hundred kilometers and have them broadcast the signal.”

    “Exactly,” said Bella. “Program the trajectories and distances along with a simple message about our location and status. Maybe even a brief synopsis of what happened.”

    “And even if they don’t send out a signal, six pods surrounding a central point would have to be noticed by anyone picking up the signals,” said Lilly.

    “And at two hundred kilometers, it gives them a fairly narrow portion of space to look at instead of a whole lot larger area,” said Bella.

    “And those pods transmit on the interstellar emergency frequencies so anyone, even Earth based stations, will be able to pick them up,” said Lilly. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

    “Why didn’t any of us when we first started?” asked Colt. “Do you have control of the pods?”

    “I don’t need control of the pods for this to work,” said Bella. “They are independent of all shipboard systems so they weren’t affected by the takeover.”

    “Well, that makes it easy,” said Colt.

    “I’ll go and take care of it,” said Lilly.

    “No, you don’t have to,” said Sanchez.

    “Okay, would the next person that can do the math in their head of how far and to what locations to send the pods along with programming the emergency channels please step up?” asked Lilly.

    “I’ve…uhhh, yeah, maybe she should go,” said McMasters.

    “I’ve got to get control of the systems,” said Bella.

    “I could, but I’m getting ready to head to engineering,” said Sanchez.

    “I’ll escort you,” said Colt.

    “I’ll only need six so we’ll only have to be in one spot,” said Lilly.

    “I’d suggest the ones closest to the cannon emplacements I have control of,” said Bella.

    “Why would that help?” asked Lilly.

    “Because if a pirate or Zhao ship shows up, I’d at least like to be able to fight back if needed,” said Bella. “I can work on the automated systems, but we need some kind of defense.”

    “Bella is right,” said McMasters. “Those pirates haven’t left yet so they could be waiting on another ship to approach before leaving. And their shuttle has what? Fifty million kilometer range max?”

    “If that,” said Colt. “And like we said before, these guys aren’t going to go down with the ship. They plan on getting picked up.”

    “I’ll oblige them a trip,” said McMasters as he picked up a carbine. “Straight to hell.”

    “Okay, that was really bad,” said Bella with a laugh. “But it seems like you might not get the chance to after all.”

    Bella moved one of the security cameras to the main cargo deck and showed at least ten of the pirates gathering up near their shuttle. With one urging them on towards the deck.

    “It appears they are leaving,” said Colt.

    “I’m a bit worried at this point,” said Sanchez. “Especially with the bombs in engineering.”

    “That’s not all though,” said Bella. “There is still that group of five at random places in the ship. Although one is alone.”

    “Doing what?” asked Colt.

    “Don’t know,” said Bella. “But at least two are heading back towards engineering.”

    “I’d like to take a couple of these guys alive if at all possible,” said Colt. “They might be less likely to blow up the ship if some of their buddies are onboard.”

    “I can’t promise anything,” said McMasters.

    “We’ll try though,” said Sanchez.

    “Becky, Brent, get them,” said Colt. “I’ll take Lilly and get the escape pods sent out. Bella, you stick around here and continue getting control of everything.”

    “Be safe,” said Bella as she gave Colt a quick kiss and a worried look.

    “Be right back,” he said with a smile and a wink as he walked away. Grabbing a tablet to keep tabs on the pirates, he checked ahead of their path and instructed Lilly to watch behind them. She looked uncomfortable with the pistol in her hands, but looked jumpy enough to at least raise the alarm if needed. The corridor was checked before leaving the bridge as Bella deactivated the Smart Metal barrier to allow them to exit. Once they were in the hallway, they started traveling down a corridor to the nearest area with the escape pods. Lilly didn’t like being in the hallway where the sensors were out, but trusted Colt to watch her back as they approached the portion where the pods were located.

    “Okay, it’ll take a minute or two for each pod,” she said as she pulled out a tablet and set her pistol to the side. She plugged the data cable in and quickly programmed the pod to go a set distance at a set speed and to transmit a coded message once it arrived. She wanted to be on the safe side and set the coordinates three hundred kilometers just in case the jammer was stronger than anticipated. Once she set the controls, she closed the pod and hit the emergency eject which shot the pod out of the side of the ship.

    “One down, five to go,” she muttered as she headed to the next pod and programmed the same parameters only to a different location. Since she already had the message written out, she didn’t had to change that portion and the process was a lot quicker. Hitting the eject button once again, she moved to the next pod and repeated the process, rapidly sending them on their way. At the final pod, she finished up and hit eject for the final time and turned back to Colt.

    “Not bad huh?” she asked and movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and that of Colt. But before he could react, one of the pirates slammed him out of the way and a second moved towards her at the same time. She froze, unable to move and unable to react as he grabbed her forcefully by the arm and yanked her in close. She watched as the first pirate attempted to kick Colt while he was down, but he managed to roll away and quickly get back on his feet. The pirate reached for the holstered pistol at his waist, but Colt moved in at the same time and managed to kick it out of his hand where it clattered across the floor. He looked at the pirate and immediately saw hatred in the eyes, but also recognized who it was.

    “Clinton!” exclaimed Colt.

    “Yes, Chief Pilot Daniels,” growled the pirate as they circled each other for a moment. Clinton saw the other pirate attempting to aim his weapon, but stopped him.

    “No! This one is mine,” growled Clinton as he held up his hand.

    “Clinton, don’t do this,” said Colt as he looked for an opening to strike. “We were your family.”

    “We were before you abandoned me!” growled Clinton. “You ruined my life!”

    “We did no such thing!” exclaimed Colt.

    “Your report ruined my career!” exclaimed Clinton. “You personally dropped the report that killed my chances of ever becoming a Chief Pilot!”

    “I also recommended you be dropped back into the class you came from!” exclaimed Colt. “You were going back to a senior pilot billet.”

    “I wanted this ship! I did everything you told me to do! And it never was good enough for you! You ruined everything!” growled Clinton.

    Clinton drew out a long bladed knife from his belt and lunged at Colt. Colt managed to dodge away from the knife, but still got cut on his arm as the pirate swung it back. He cradled his arm and saw the cut was superficial, but still hurt.

    “I’m gonna cut you up like a steak,” growled Clinton as he resumed his attack. But Colt managed to dodge the swing once again, but this time connected with a punch to the side of his head. Clinton fell to the floor from the blow, but quickly made a move to get back up. But Colt was just as quick with the kick to his midsection that lifted him fifteen centimeters off the floor. And followed that attack with attempting to kick his head. However, Colt missed on his swing as Clinton saw his pistol and lunged towards it. He knew he was going to be overpowered by Colt’s sheer size and strength and needed to end the fight quickly. But Colt had recovered the carbine and fired a three round burst before Clinton managed to get his weapon aimed. In dying, he tried to point, but squeezed the trigger and shot a round into the empty escape pod hatch where it harmlessly broke into dust and fell to the floor. He attempted to aim the pistol once again, but Colt fired a single round into his head which ended his struggle with life.

    Colt got his bearings and turned towards the second pirate who had watched the battle and still held the pistol to Lilly’s head.

    “Drop your weapon!” ordered the man.

    “You know that won’t happen,” said Colt as he pointed the carbine at the second pirate.

    “I’ll kill her! I swear it!” he yelled.

    “No you won’t,” said Colt. “Just let her go.”

    “I just want out of here!” yelled the pirate. “Drop your gun or this bitch gets it!”

    “You would have shot me already if you were a real pirate,” said Colt.

    “Look, I’m just an out of work computer engineer!” said the pirate. “I just came on to hack into the core and download the programs.”

    “I know you,” said Colt as he recognized the man named Phil Smith from Pluto.

    “I don’t care! Now get out of the way or I’ll kill her,” said Smith.

    “Look, as cliché as this is, you know there’s only one way this ends,” said Colt. “Even if you kill her, you won’t survive.”

    “I’ll kill you!” he said and nervously looked at the pods and back at Colt.

    “No you won’t,” said Colt. “Let her go, put down the gun and we’ll talk.”

    “No! I’ll kill her if you don’t back off!” he yelled.

    “I love you Colt,” said Lilly as a tear streamed down her face.

    “Shut up!” ordered the man as he moved his finger to the trigger. “And drop your-”

    However, he never finished the sentence as a hole appeared in his head and he fell to the floor. Lilly jumped at the sound of his pistol hitting the floor as Colt peeked over the top of the carbine at him to make sure he was down.

    “I know,” said Colt as he looked at her. “C’mon, let’s go.”

    “You know?” she asked and ignored the fact she was a split second away from death only moments before. She saw him grab a medical pack from a nearby station and apply a medical patch to the cut on his arm. He grimaced as it went to work, but it quickly stopped the bleeding and started repairing the damaged tissue using nanites to rebuild the wound.

    “Yeah, for a long time now. Grab the weapons and let’s go,” he urged.

    “Seriously?” she asked as she collected the two pistols and spare magazines. She also remembered to grab her pistol as it was lying useless at the first pod they stopped at.

    “Of course,” said Colt as she headed down the corridor towards the cannon emplacement. “It’s not like you did a good job in hiding it.”

    “But you never said anything!” she protested.

    “Because I thought it would pass,” said Colt. “And because I was already in love with Bella by the time I met you.”

    “I never knew you knew,” said Lilly.

    “Look, you’re a beautiful woman and eventually you’ll meet a guy who will sweep you off your feet and all that,” said Colt. “But honestly, that’s not me. I love Bella with all my heart and she means the world to me.”

    “Yeah, she said about the same thing,” said Lilly.

    “You told her you were in love with me?” asked Colt. “And you’ve still got a head attached to your body?”

    “We had a nice chat about it,” said Lilly. “But I thought I was about to die and you should know how I felt.”

    “I wasn’t going to let you die,” said Colt.

    “Sorry for letting my feelings slip,” said Lilly as she blushed up.

    “You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already,” said Colt as they came to the cannon emplacement. “Okay, in you go and lock the door behind you. If anything Zhao or pirate shows up, you blast that sucker into the next dimension.”

    “Got it,” said Lilly. “Colt?”

    “Yeah?” he asked and had her run up and grab him in a hug and snuck in a kiss as well.

    “Just in case we don’t make it,” she said through the blush on her face.

    “Speaking of cliché,” he said. “Never again though. And we are going to make it through.”

    “I trust you,” she said.

    “Be careful,” he said.

    “You too,” she said as she locked the door behind her feeling a little better she finally allowed the truth to come out. But like someone had stomped all over her heart as she had fallen in love with a man who she couldn’t have.


    “I don’t know why they didn’t insist on a remote arming device,” said one of the pirates as they walked towards the engineering section.

    “Doesn’t really matter at this point,” said the second. “Just arm them on a timer and let’s get the hell out of here.”

    “I’ve got a better idea,” said McMasters from behind them as he and Sanchez moved out of one of the maintenance rooms. “Give up.”

    “I told them we should have killed the crew when we had the chance,” said the first pirate with a sigh. “But no, we wanted forensic evidence and all.”

    “Drop the weapons,” said Sanchez.

    “Look lady, I ain’t in the mood to fool around,” said the second as his hand twitched towards his pistol. The first looked at the second and back to McMasters and Sanchez before moving his hand towards his holster as well.

    “Don’t do it,” warned McMasters. However, the pirates believed in going out with a fight and quickly tried to draw their weapons. However, McMasters and Sanchez fired at the same time, hitting both with three rounds to the chest and three more to the head. Both pirates dropped dead from the bursts and a small tablet clattered to the floor.

    “You think that’s the arming device?” asked McMasters.

    “I’d bet it might be,” said Sanchez. “I’m not leaving it around to find out.”

    Sanchez went over to grab the tablet while McMasters continued watching the hallway. He also knew they needed to report in that their mission was successful.

    “This is McMasters,” he said over the communicator. “Becky and I got two.”

    “This is Colt,” said Colt over the communicator. “I got two.”

    “Showoff,” said McMasters over the communicator.

    “Still leaves one unaccounted for and the rest in the cargo bay,” said Bella. “I’ve got an idea.”

    “Vent the atmosphere and lock the cargo doors?” asked Colt as he moved towards the main cargo deck.

    “Maybe,” said Bella.

    “They’ve got weapons on that ship and could blast their way out,” said Sanchez.

    “I don’t think they’d get through the reinforced bow. At least not in a timely fashion,” said Colt as he saw the indicator lights on the medical patch turn green indicating the healing process was complete. He ripped it off and dropped it on the deck as he ran towards the nearest door to the cargo area. But just as he arrived, he saw the indicator lights turn red and the door slam shut.

    “Are you sealing it off?” asked Colt over the communicator.

    “No! They’re doing it manually and opening the doors!” said Bella.

    “Can you stop them?” asked Sanchez.

    “Not when they’re doing it in emergency manual mode!” said Bella.

    “Override it!” said Colt.

    “There’s not enough time!” said Bella as the large clamshell doors started opening. She watched helplessly as the doors opened enough for the shuttle to depart out of the bay and started heading away from the side where Lilly was manning one of the cannons.

    “Lilly? Do you have a shot?” asked Colt.

    “No!” she exclaimed. Bella watched as the shuttle quickly gained speed and sped out of sight of the ship, angry at not being able to stop them.

    “It’s too late,” said Bella as she sighed and overrode the emergency controls and closed the bay doors. Once they were into the cycle, she instructed the ship to repressurize the bay once it was complete and they had a good seal again.

    “I’m heading for the bridge,” said Colt.

    “I’ll check on engineering and get ready to install the thermal limiters when you say so,” said Sanchez. “I’ll send McMasters to the other cannon emplacement.”

    “Got it,” said Colt as he retrieved the tablet Lilly had dropped earlier. Luckily it had survived the drop without breaking and Colt saw everything was in order. “Bella, I’m almost there.”

    “Okay,” said Bella as she instructed the Smart Metal to unmeld from the facing so the door would open. Once it was out of the way, she reconnected the leads to allow Colt access. Once she completed that task, she heard the door opening behind her and turned with a smile on her face. But it quickly disappeared as Ishmael darted in before she could react and grabbed her.

    “Expecting someone else my dear?” he asked as he pulled her in and drew a knife to place along her throat. “I sincerely hope you aren’t the one that’s been causing me so many problems. You’re far too lovely to kill outright.”

    “You have lost,” said Bella as she felt the razor sharp edge of the knife on her neck.

    Au contraire, I still have that perfectly good shuttle on top of this whale,” said Ishmael. “And I have you as a hostage. Seems like I haven’t lost yet.”

    “They won’t bargain for me,” said Bella in a whisper as she stood on her tiptoes trying to get out of his grasp.

    “I’d bet you mean something to someone on this ship,” said Ishmael. “That fancy engagement ring certainly isn’t worn for decoration.”

    “Don’t you dare do anything to her,” said Colt with a growl as he rounded the corner and saw Bella being held hostage.

    “Ah, the savior arrives,” said Ishmael as he ducked behind her to where he could see Colt, but wouldn’t give him a clear shot. “I can see from the look on your face this pretty lady means a great deal to you. So an assumption of mine that you’re her fiancé.”

    “Let her go,” said Colt. “Or else.”

    “I’m not sure you’re in a position to be threatening,” said Ishmael.

    “If you hurt her, I’ll burn down your house and kill your family,” growled Colt.

    “Wow!” exclaimed Ishmael with a laugh after several seconds passed. “I like your style! Unfortunately, I think you’re probably a pretty decent guy deep down and just couldn’t go through with that. And besides, I don’t own a house and I really, really don’t like my family so I’d probably give you a hug if you did.”

    “Just let her go,” said Colt. “This can be between you and me.”

    “Now see, you just aren’t asking the right questions,” said Ishmael.

    “Fine, let her go and I’ll take your place,” said Colt.

    “No!” protested Bella.

    “How sweet,” said Ishmael. “And yes, that’s the right question although not formed as a question. But what good does that do me?”

    “I’m the Chief Pilot of this ship,” said Colt.

    “Now that does me some good,” said Ishmael. “So we pop this young lady out into space and get heading where I want to go.”

    “Hell no,” growled Colt.

    “Well, we’d put her in an escape pod,” said Ishmael sarcastically. “She’d be fine for three months in stasis and the distress beacon would be picked up by someone before she ran out of life support.”

    “Fine,” said Colt. “But I put her in and program it.”

    “Yeah, let’s hold off on the teary eyed goodbyes for a moment and focus on something more important,” said Ishmael. “Like fixing the engines.”

    “You set her free and we’ll talk,” said Colt.

    “Not how it works there chief,” said Ishmael. “You fix the engines, I set her free and you take me wherever I want to go.”

    “How do I know you won’t just kill her if I fix the engines?” asked Colt.

    “Well…you don’t,” said Ishmael in a matter of fact tone. “I would say trust me, but you’d likely roll your eyes and scoff or something. But I’ll kill her for certain if you don’t do what I say.”

    “I’m not sure what’s wrong,” said Colt.

    “Oh, I think you know very well where the thermal influx limiters are located,” said Ishmael. “If I thought otherwise, you’d already be dead.”

    “I do,” said Colt.

    “Well, let’s get to it then,” said Ishmael. “You go back and fix the engines. You come back here and show me the ship works again. I let her go in an escape pod and we fly out of here. Oh, and your friends need to eject themselves in pods as well.”

    “What friends?” asked Colt.

    “You must think I’m an idiot,” said Ishmael. “I know very well you couldn’t have done every bit of damage to this ship single handedly. So you have some cohorts assisting. You go fix the engines, tell them to leave and I’ll allow them to go.”

    “No,” said Colt.

    “Then she really doesn’t mean that much to you,” said Ishmael as he tightened his grip on the knife and pressed it a bit more into her neck.

    “No! I’ll do it!” said Colt.

    “First, drop that carbine though,” said Ishmael. Colt did as instructed and set the carbine on the deck. He also took the tablet and set it on the console in front of him, noticing as he did a particular program that could prove to be valuable.

    “Okay, I’ve done it,” said Colt. “Now at least move the knife away from her neck.”

    “How adorable,” said Ishmael. “It’s true that love blinds common sense.”

    Ishmael relaxed his grip slightly and pulled the knife down to her waist. And he looked at Colt for his reaction. Colt looked deep into Bella’s eyes and said a simple phrase.

    “One on one,” said Colt. Ishmael had a confused look on his face, but Bella immediately recognized what was going on and quickly nodded her head. Before Ishmael could react, Colt lunged to the tablet and hit the icon to activate the micro gravity controllers in her shoes. She jumped up at the same time she felt the gravity cease and carried Ishmael with her to the ceiling where she extended her arms to keep from crashing. However, Ishmael wasn’t as quick as he hit his head on a low beam and released his grasp on Bella. And in turn, found himself outside of the micro gravity controller as he slammed back to the deck, hitting his back on a console on the way down. Bella managed to crawl along the ceiling as Colt rushed in to disarm and attack Ishmael. But the pirate was used to physical confrontation and kicked out at Colt as he approached. Colt got the brunt of the kick to his thigh and fell to the deck with a grunt.

    Ishmael took notice of his knife on the floor and lunged towards it. However, Bella had come down and kicked it across the deck away from him before jumping back out of his reach. Colt had regained his composure by then and gone back on the attack towards Ishmael. However, Ishmael had partially recovered himself, but was not able to block the tackle Colt placed on him as they slammed to the deck with his body bearing the brunt of Colt’s weight. The wind was knocked out of his lungs as he reached for the pistol at his waist, but found it had fallen out during the tackle and had spun across the floor. Bella swooped in one last time and picked it up and safely flew out of reach as Colt started punching Ishmael in the face.

    Again, Ishmael gained the upper hand by bringing his knee into Colt’s groin and tossing him off to the side. Ishmael looked around for Colt’s carbine, but noticed Bella had already beat him to it and moved out of the way yet again. As Colt attempted to recover, Ishmael kicked him in the midsection twice before Colt caught his leg and tossed him off balance. He managed to grab the other leg and swept him off his feet before he landed with a grunt on the deck once again. Colt got up and managed to get his bearings before Ishmael lunged at him again, catching Colt in the midsection. Colt brought his elbow down with all the force he could apply against Ishmael’s back and felt his grasp loosen slightly. Colt repeated the process three more times, each time grunting and his final blow with a guttural yell. Ishmael fell to the floor and attempted to roll out of the way, but not before getting caught in the chest by a swift kick from Colt. He rolled over on his back and managed to dodge the next kick and scampered to his feet. He lunged in halfheartedly, but his punch was blocked as Colt landed an uppercut right underneath his jaw which laid him out on the floor once again.

    Colt initially started to move in, but a rolling chair was swept into his path by Ishmael as he gathered his bearings. Colt kicked it out of the way and attempted to resume his attack, but Ishmael had staggered up by then. Ishmael faced Colt and saw the pure rage in his eyes and decided it was best for him to escape at that point. He quickly turned and departed the bridge and headed down the starboard corridor.

    “Colt!” said Bella as she saw he was going to give chase. He turned and saw she tossed the carbine at him and grabbed it out of the air before turning and pursuing Ishmael down the corridor. He made several turns before Colt was able to get a clear shot at him, but as much as Colt wanted him dead, he knew he was worth more alive. He noticed Ishmael was powering up one of the escape pods and decided to end the fight once and for all. He fired a single round into the control panel, effectively wrecking it in the process.

    “The next one will kill you,” said Colt through gritted teeth.

    “I can’t be taken alive,” said Ishmael as he backed up. His hands were raised but the look on Colt’s face meant he might not make it to the next escape pod in time.

    “I really don’t care,” said Colt without emotion. “You killed my Captain, my First Officer and my Senior Navigator along with their families. And you threatened my fiancée.”

    “I wasn’t responsible for the deaths,” said Ishmael.

    “A leader is responsible for those under his command,” said Colt. “And ultimately responsible for their actions. So yes, you were responsible for the deaths.”

    They two stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity before Ishmael quickly turned and darted into the escape pod. But before he was able to get the door shut, he heard the crack of a bullet and felt it impact his body. He slumped into the small compartment as the door slammed shut and he hit the button to eject the pod with a grunt. The pod shot out and away from the ship and rotated slightly as it journeyed away. Ishmael started setting the proper frequencies on the emergency communications link for his group of pirates and used his other hand to feel the wound on his back. He brought his hand back and saw the blood was dark red in color meaning he was probably hit in the liver. The automated sequence for putting him in stasis started up without him prompting as his eyes started to flutter. He managed to shut it off before it got too far, but his movements were already slowed and his thinking was clouded as he searched for a medical bag to help stop the bleeding. However, there was nothing available near where he was at as the pain increased with each beat of his heart.

    Knowing the end was near, he was faced with the choices of slowly bleeding to death in the pod, putting himself in stasis where he would still bleed and face an even slower death and going out on his own terms. He also knew the chances of his band finding him this far out were slim to none and it was more likely one of the Infinicon ships would locate him before they did. Searching the small area, he found what he was looking for and made a decision in his mind.

    Ishmael moved a large safety lever which caused an alarm to sound within the pod and flashing yellow lights. Ignoring them, he continued by flipping a toggle switch that was protected by a plastic case as additional alarms sounded and the lights flashed bright red in a rapid fashion. Taking one last breath, he hesitated before grunting and pulling the final lever. A different alarm sounded for a moment before he didn’t hear anything any longer and he saw the stars when the pod door came open and he was exposed to the vacuum of space. He stared at the stars before letting out a final breath and his tongue felt odd. He floated out of the pod in the lack of gravity and continued staring as his blood finally ran out of oxygen and his brain shut down from the lack of that essential element.
  5. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 28

    “Colt!” exclaimed Bella as he returned to the bridge.

    “Hey sweet thing,” said Colt as he slumped into a chair and relaxed for the first time since they had started. “Anyone else on the sensors?”

    “Not that I could tell,” said Bella. “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, just need to rest a minute,” said Colt with a groan as he slumped into a chair.

    “I knew I’d get you to myself before long,” said Bella with half a grin as she relaxed somewhat herself. She headed over and took his hand and squeezed it gently, seeing the bruises already forming from his fight from earlier. He squeezed back before standing up and taking her into a hug as she laid her head against his chest.

    “What happened to the pirate boss?” asked Bella.

    “He put himself in an escape pod and ejected,” said Colt.

    “He got away?” asked Bella.

    “No,” said Colt. “The life signs stopped reading after he opened the hatch.”

    “He what?!” asked Bella.

    “The pods keep a limited connection with the parent ship once they are ejected,” said Colt. “And from the readings I saw, he opened the hatch after ejecting.”

    “Why?” asked Bella.

    “I have no idea,” said Colt with a sigh. “I think I hit him with a shot before he ejected so he might have preferred to go out on his terms.”

    “Sad,” said Bella.

    “Not really,” said Colt. “He threatened you and that was reason enough for me to go after him.”

    “Thanks,” said Bella as she squeezed him to let him know his comment was appreciated.

    “Is this what normal people do?” he asked with a chuckle.

    “No, they tend to go on boring trips back to Earth,” she replied with a smile. “You on the other hand seem to attract trouble.”

    “We didn’t have trouble until you came along,” he replied with a tired grin.

    “Are you implying I’m a jinx?” she asked with a laugh.

    “I’m just saying that normally we wouldn’t have trouble like this,” he grinned.

    “I’m not sure it’s worth even a free ride,” she laughed.

    “But the inflight entertainment is second to none,” he grinned.

    “We really need to fire our travel agent,” she chuckled.

    “You think?” asked Colt with a laugh. “There I was taking a nice long nap when someone decided to pull me out of stasis to help out.”

    “You complaining?” she asked.

    “Nah, I’m pretty happy to be of service,” he replied with a grin and scratched at her shoulders.

    “Really?” she asked.

    “Really what?” he asked in return.

    “You know what that does to me,” she replied.

    “Not a lot of time for hanky-panky right now,” he laughed. “And I’m worn out.”

    “I know the feeling,” said Bella as they shared a kiss anyway. “I’ll continue getting the ship online. But I think it’s safe to wake up the crew at this point.”

    “Yeah, we could use the help,” said Colt. She gave him a smile and headed back to the console to continue getting control of the ship. Colt relaxed for a moment before remembering something important he needed to do.

    “Hey, I forgot to tell you something,” said Colt as he stepped up behind her and rubbed at her shoulders. She paused momentarily before leaning back into him.

    “What’s that?” she asked.

    “I’m proud of you baby,” said Colt. “I’d be completely lost, shoot, this entire ship would be lost if you weren’t thinking on your feet.”

    “Nobody messes with my man and gets away with it,” said Bella as she turned around and wrapped her arms around his neck. “And you’ve shown yourself to be quite the leader during this little crisis.”

    “Just following your lead,” he said as they shared a passionate kiss and ended with a hug.

    “I love you Colt,” said Bella as she laid her head against his shoulder. “I don’t even want to contemplate thinking where I would be if something happened to you.”

    “Nothing is going to happen to me or you or anyone else,” he replied and squeezed her a bit. “And yes, I love you too. I’m going to head back to engineering and check on Becky and start waking the crew out of stasis.”

    “Promise me you’ll be careful,” said Bella as she released slightly and looked him in the face.

    “You know it,” said Colt with a confident smile.


    “Any word from Ishmael?” asked a pirate that was second in command on board their shuttle. They had managed to get the doors on the Atomic Destiny open and were rapidly heading towards the point in space they would rendezvous with their mother ship and continue their journey to the port they called home.

    “Nothing,” said the one piloting the craft.

    “No signals from the other shuttle?” asked the pirate.

    “Nothing I can tell,” said the pilot. “They may still be within jamming distance.”

    “Maybe,” said the pirate. “Well, no matter what, he made his bed.”

    “Still our leader,” said the pilot.

    “Maybe yours, but not mine,” said the pirate.

    “Yours for the moment,” said the pilot.

    “Continue on course,” said the pirate as he checked the navigation once again and wondered if the ship would meet them before they ran out of fuel and life support.

    “Got it,” said the pilot as he checked the navigation and saw they were well away from the Atomic Destiny and the possible threat they might pose to his somewhat defenseless craft. He breathed in a sigh of relief at getting away alive after so many of their band had been killed in what many now considered a senseless raid. He had a feeling they would not be paid for the job they had done since they hadn’t accomplished what they set out to do, but knew it was better to be alive and broke than dead and rich.


    “Communications array is targeted,” said the weapons systems officer.

    “You may fire at will,” said the Captain. The officer selected the main cannons as the weapon of choice and fired several rounds at the targeted point on the pirate’s shuttle, seeing each destroy the communications array as it flew off the ship.

    “Target the engines, life support and weapons consoles,” said the Captain. “You may fire at will and I want the target destroyed. Send the orders to open fire.”

    “Prisoners?” asked the officer.

    “Are not our concern,” said the Captain as the officer targeted the pirate vessel and started sending shell after shell and severely damaging the pirate shuttle. The damage was far more pronounced as the shuttle was not meant to stand up to the kind of abuse it was taking since it lacked any appreciable armor. The other ship with them opened fire as well until the pirate craft broke in three large pieces from an onboard explosion.

    “Not reading any life signs,” said the officer.

    “Destroy the pieces,” said the Captain. “I don’t want anything left.”

    “Aye Captain,” said the weapons officer as he resumed firing and destroyed the remaining portions of the craft until the pieces weren’t large enough to target.

    “Secure from firing,” said the Captain. “Reload the magazines and signal the other ship. Set navigation to home in on beacon Tango 1 and get underway. Speed one-third.”

    “Aye Captain,” said the navigator.

    “And after we home in on the beacon sir?” asked the weapons officer.

    “We’re going hunting on some big game,” said the Captain of the Zhao frigate as he contemplated his orders to leave no traces of their involvement in the entire botched affair. He had warned the corporate leadership against using the normally unreliable pirates, but they had not wanted any chance of their involvement being discovered. But after seeing the ship stop for an extended period of time in space, they assumed the worst and been dispatched to “remove any evidence of our complicity in the matter.” And that included the Atomic Destiny as well.


    Colt wandered into engineering where Sanchez was busy at work getting ready to put the thermal limiters back into the engines. And repair some of the damage done earlier from the firefight between the pirates. She grunted as she lifted a new computer console into place from a damaged one.

    “Do much damage?” asked Colt.

    “I wish these guys knew how to use smart rounds instead of the high explosive ones,” said Sanchez as the computer was hooked up and a test started running. She spied a cable that needed replacing and fixed that problem as well.

    “Anything that will prohibit us from flying?” asked Colt.

    “Nothing that comes to mind,” said Sanchez. “As soon as I install the limiters, we should be able to get underway if we have pilot controls.”

    “Bella says we can fly out of here with no problem,” said Colt.

    “I owe that lady my life,” said Sanchez. “She’s responsible for saving this ship and everyone on board.”

    “Yep,” said Colt. “Something I plan on letting corporate know about.”

    “So what’s the plan?” asked Sanchez as she saw the computer finishing the test and pronouncing itself fit for duty in a cybernetic world. She selected the control programs it was responsible for and saw it get back to work on keeping the systems in engineering under control.

    “We fly to the Pegasus station and I stop about fifty thousand kilometers out,” said Colt. “I’ll have one of the other pilots and a senior member fly ahead in the Neutron Destiny and alert them to our trouble.”

    “That sounds like a great plan,” said Sanchez. “And if I may suggest leaving a skeleton crew on board and sending everyone else to the station.”

    “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” said Colt as he watched Sanchez put the first thermal limiter back into the engine and closed the access cover. The engine started humming as it went through a series of self-tests and diagnostics to ensure it would function properly.

    “It takes about five minutes per check,” said Sanchez as she watched the engine.

    “Okay, why not do them all at the same time?” asked Colt.

    “Because the computer will only test one at a time,” said Sanchez. “Don’t ask me why, but that’s the way they designed the system.”

    “Dumb,” said Colt. “Okay, let me know if you have any problems.”

    “You still have Brent and Lilly in the cannon emplacements?” asked Sanchez.

    “Yeah for the moment, but I figure I could bring them out now,” said Colt.

    “I’d wait a bit honestly,” said Sanchez. “Until we are underway at least.”

    “Why didn’t you ever become a Captain?” asked Colt.

    “Never wanted it,” said Sanchez. “Well, not really. There’s other reasons why I didn’t take a command path that I could have years ago, but there are good reasons.”

    “Such as?” asked Colt.

    “Such as reasons I’d rather keep to myself honestly,” said Sanchez. “No offense Colt, but some things are better left alone.”

    “I wasn’t meaning to pry,” said Colt.

    “No, it’s a legitimate question,” said Sanchez. “But we’ll leave it at unspecified reasons.”

    “I suppose I can accept that,” chuckled Colt as she checked on the engine and found it in order and ready to come online.

    “Well, one down, five to go,” said Sanchez.

    “Be careful saying such things,” chuckled Colt. “Last time that was said some pirate attempted to carve me like a Christmas ham.”

    “There aren’t any more on board,” said Sanchez. “At least I hope.”

    “We probably should check,” said Colt.

    “I feel they would have popped out by now onto one of the sensor screens,” said Sanchez. “But I’ve been keeping an eye out and the only ones moving around are you and I.”

    “Well, that’s good,” said Colt. “At least a load off my mind.”

    “How’s Bella holding up?” asked Sanchez.

    “Like a champ,” said Colt.

    “That’s good,” said Sanchez. “You best treat her to anything she wants when we get to Earth. She’s earned a good pampering like nobody else I’ve ever seen.”

    “She would get it anyway,” said Colt.

    “You’re going to make a good husband,” laughed Sanchez as she installed the next thermal limiter and closed the maintenance cover.

    “I’ll try,” said Colt as the next engine went through its testing and diagnostics. “I’m going to wake up some of the crew now. I’ll try to get engineering and the medical folks first.”

    “Okay, I certainly could use the help,” said Sanchez.

    “Won’t be for a while though,” said Colt.

    “As soon as I finish up here, I’ll play babysitter to the ones you wake,” said Sanchez.

    “Thanks Becky,” said Colt.

    “No, thank you Colt,” said Sanchez.

    “For what?” he asked.

    “You’ve been instrumental along with Bella in keeping us alive,” said Sanchez.

    “I did what the job required,” said Colt.

    “And kept us alive in the process,” said Sanchez.

    “Bella more than me,” said Colt.

    “Would you just say ‘thank you Ms. Sanchez’ and hush?” said Sanchez sternly.

    “Yes mom,” laughed Colt. “If there’s nothing else, I’ll get going.”

    “Off you go then,” said Sanchez. Colt headed back to the cargo room where the crew was still in stasis and removed the protective Smart Metal coating from the door. Heading inside, the stasis pods were still powered up and keeping the crew alive with no problems. He tried to locate the medical crew members as they would be best to have to help everyone else out of stasis and started looking through the pods. He heard through the headset that engines 3 and 4 were now online and Sanchez was busy on number 5. And Bella announced the ship now had full flight controls restored. McMasters announced he was entirely bored and ready for more fighting while Lilly was quiet.

    “Becky? You want me to start the process?” asked Colt.

    “Yeah, number 5 is running diagnostics and should be finished in about three minutes,” said Sanchez. “I’ll get 6 up and running and should be done in ten minutes or so.”

    “Lilly? Everything okay?” asked Colt.

    “Yeah, just…I think there’s something out here,” said Lilly.

    “Can you check through the electro-optical array?” asked Colt.

    “It’s at our ten o’clock, zero Z axis,” said Lilly. “Bella, can you point the sensors out that direction and take a look?”

    “I haven’t got those back yet, hang on,” said Bella over the communicator as she headed away from the First Officer’s station and to the sensor station and started entering her password to bring the systems back online. She had been concentrating more on the flight controls and other critical systems before the secondary systems and the programs and sensor arrays went through the self-check before coming back to life.

    “It’s something,” said Lilly. “I can’t get it clear enough in the optical sight, but I can see it against the background.”

    “Hang on, sensors are coming online,” said Bella as she checked the console and pointed the sensors in that direction. However, they were still getting back online as she checked the status of the remainder of the systems.

    “Bella?” asked Colt.

    “Give me a minute,” said Bella. “Almost there.”

    Colt checked over the control panel in the stasis pod and got ready to input the sequence to reanimate the occupant of the pod. But before he started the controls, he felt a slight shudder in the ship as if they had struck something. He wondered if his tired mind was playing tricks on him as he paused and waited for a moment to see what the problem was. And another thump was felt as the earbud came to life in his ear.

    “Colt! Get up here!” exclaimed Bella over the radio. “We’re under attack!”
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  6. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Just when you think you can take a break...

    ...reminds me of the Marine Corps...lol
  7. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 29

    “On my way!” shouted Colt as he ran through the corridors towards the bridge. When he arrived, he found Bella barely keeping up with the controls and trying to steer the Atomic Destiny as impacts were heard and felt hitting the outer hull. Luckily with the double hull design, the shells weren’t penetrating into the interior hull yet although that could change quickly.

    “What do we have?” he asked.

    “Two Zhao frigates!” she exclaimed as she hopped out of the chair and headed for the navigation station.

    “Get on sensors, I need you there more!” he stated as he hopped into the chair and hit several of the buttons and switches on his console, bringing five of the six engines back fully online. But he throttled back the one since it would increase the yaw rate of the ship and wait for Sanchez to finish repairing the engines.

    “Brace yourself guys, this might get a bit bumpy,” stated Colt as he threw the engines into full thrust and started rolling the ship over instead of trying to turn.

    “I’ve got the ships coming into my view!” exclaimed McMasters. “Keep rolling it over!”

    “Put the sensors on my main screen!” ordered Colt as he looked out the side windows and saw the ships firing their railguns at the Atomic Destiny. The impacts registered on the sensor logs as Bella shared the sensor data to the other console. Colt got a good look as the sensors registered additional targets.

    “Fighters!” exclaimed McMasters at the same time.

    “Zhao frigates don’t carry fighters!” shouted Sanchez as waited for the engine to complete the diagnostic testing and bring itself online.

    “Yeah, stick your head out the window and tell these guys that!” shouted McMasters as he attempted to engage the fighters. The problem with the cannons was they weren’t designed to engage the faster moving targets and were more for the larger ships like the frigates. He sent several rounds towards the fast moving fighters and decided it would be better to deal with the larger frigates instead.

    “All engines fully online!” yelled Sanchez through the communicator. “Which other cannons are operational?”

    “Number Five, port side!” said Bella as another impact was heard on the side and alarms started blaring at her station. “Venting atmosphere in compartment nineteen!”

    “Seal it off and get the autocannons or missiles online!” shouted Colt as he managed to get the Atomic Destiny fully turned to where McMasters could engage the frigates. The other frigate was moving into a position to where Lilly was able to fire several rounds at it.

    “I need to keep up with sensors more” said Bella.

    “We need the defenses or we’re dead!” exclaimed Colt.

    “I don’t know which ones they are!” she exclaimed.

    “Open the weapons console!” said Colt. “There should be the program label in the top right hand box!”

    “It is!” exclaimed Bella. “What do you want first?”

    “I don’t care which one, we need everything we can get!” exclaimed Colt as he twisted the Atomic Destiny once again to keep the frigates somewhat in firing range. He saw the enemy ships were staying within a two dimensional engagement for the moment and he decided to change his own tactics. By standing the ship on its stern and continuing to roll, he would present a smaller target to an extent. But suddenly his screen went blank.

    “Bella?!” he exclaimed.

    “I’m sorry!” she said as she brought up the screen to resume gaining control of the ship while trying to monitor the battle at the same time. “I was trying to get the missiles online!”

    “We can be sorry afterwards,” he said. “Right now let’s just try not to get killed.”

    “Can’t we outrun them like you said?” asked Bella.

    “Not with a skeleton crew,” said Colt. “We have to fight this one out for the moment.”

    Colt continued making sure the starboard side of the Atomic Destiny was pointed towards at least one of the attacking frigates. But by that time, Sanchez had called in she was at her cannon emplacement and he knew it wasn’t as big a deal as there were now two cannons on the port side to deal with the targets. Lilly engaged the other frigate just as Sanchez was bringing the weapon online and fired several rounds at the frigate. It sensed there was a greater threat on that side of the ship and started moving away to the top side where it could engage once again.

    “I’ve got the missiles online!” yelled Bella.

    “Okay, bring up the main sensor screen and find those fighters. When you do, you want to designate them as a threat. You do that by highlighting it and hitting the box on the right of the screen!” he stated and pulled the ship into another random turn. He wasn’t attempting to keep the weapons pointed at the enemy ships as much as he was trying to keep them from getting hit.

    “Did that do it?” she asked.

    He peered at his console and saw the indicator of one of the fighters turn to red. “Yes! Do it for the other three!”

    Bella continued changing the targets into threats as the system asked for her permission to fire. As soon as she finished designating all four fighters as hostile, she hit the execute button on the console as the missile emplacements started tracking the enemy craft. The system determined the nearest threat and trained the pod towards a fighter that was lining up behind the Atomic Destiny in an effort to take out her engines. A missile fired towards the fighter and immediately started homing in. The pilot of the fighter was too distracted by the large target to his front to see the launch or the plume of the incoming threat.

    As it neared, the missile unfurled a large metal net designed to trap its target and cause the main body to impact even if it missed. And it worked as advertised as the missile net caught the Zhao Z-101 fighter at the edge and started pulling the main projectile towards the craft as inertia took over and Newton’s Law went into full effect. And before the fighter pilot could react, the missile body slammed into his craft and exploded against the main fuselage, tearing a large hole and ripping into control interfaces, fuel lines and most importantly the life support system. The pilot attempted to get his escape pod to launch from the craft as it warned him it was about to die. But the netting prevented a clean jettison and wrapped him up in the tangled mess his craft had become. And followed quickly by the explosion of the remaining fuel and ordnance which ripped the craft to pieces.

    “Got one!” exclaimed Bella as she saw the threat disappear from the console as the firing went into automatic. The problem now was that the fighters were aware of the additional threats and kept a closer eye on the large vessel before making their attack runs. Bella managed to get the remaining close in autocannons online before going back to the main cannon systems.

    “There’s a problem with the main cannons!” she exclaimed and pounded the station with her fists. “A control line is severed!”

    “Reroute it!” exclaimed Colt as he shifted directions once again, trying to put some distance between at least one of the frigates. But they had good tactics and by moving away from one, he brought himself closer to another. And more impacts registered on the outer hull as alarms continued to go off.

    “Woo hoo! Mac’s hot tonight too! Got a fighter!” exclaimed McMasters from his emplacement as he had scored a lucky hit after a fighter had made a strafing run against the Atomic Destiny. But more damage was had to the ship as the frigates were continuing to keep away from the defensive systems as best as they could and return fire against the larger vessel.

    “I’ve got the controls rerouted,” said Bella. “Bringing the remaining cannons online!”

    “Target the frigates and fire at will,” ordered Colt as he looked at his display and saw the ships were closing the gaps fairly well despite his best efforts. And in that, saw a potential for a new plan. “Are the shuttle locks and moorings still operational?”

    “Yes!” exclaimed Bella.

    “Eject it!” said Colt. “Then get ready to drop the capture sphere!”

    “What?” she asked.

    “It’ll give them more targets to think about!” said Colt as he made another maneuver.

    “Colt, the ships are moving out range of my position!” radioed Sanchez. “Come hard right and drop down the Z axis!”

    “Hang on!” he said and immediately started trying to move the ship. “Bella, get rid of the extra weight! It will help us maneuver! On my mark…now!”

    “Ejecting shuttle!” she exclaimed as the Neutron Destiny came loose from the parent craft and started drifting in space away from the Atomic Destiny. “Getting ready to drop the capture sphere on your mark.”

    “Give me a minute,” said Colt as he checked the sensor screen. Another impact was felt on the hull and another alarm went off. But it was a one in a million chance that the Zhao round had hit exactly where the wormhole jammer had been placed on the outer hull. And in doing so, destroyed the delicate electronics inside.

    “Colt! We have comms back!” yelled Bella.

    “Send an immediate SOS message as well as a data dump to Fleet Operations!” ordered Colt.

    “Done! It dumped the buffer and is transmitting an SOS as well as our location!” she yelled.

    “Okay, I need you to remote activate the shuttle,” said Colt. “Can you do that?”

    “Yes!” she replied. “Where do you want it to go?”

    “I don’t care, just away from us,” said Colt as he checked the sensor screen and attempted to put the weapons towards the most dangerous frigate.

    “Keep coming around Colt!” ordered Sanchez.

    “I’m trying, she ain’t a ballerina!” he grunted as he brought all the engine power online and threw the thrust reverse onto one side to help the big ship move quicker. The other frigate had taken interest in the shuttle that was now moving away from the Atomic Destiny at a low rate and focused its attention on destroying it. And that’s when Colt saw his opportunity.

    “Bella, move to the station to your front,” he ordered as he kept the ship moving around. “See the controls for the capture sphere?”

    “Yes,” she said as she darted forward.

    “Okay, select the target in the box,” he said as he checked his console as well as peeking over at hers. “Once it’s selected, enter program five and hit execute.”

    “What’s that do?” she said as she followed his instructions.

    “Gives them even more to think about,” said Colt as he continued to check his console. “Wait for it…wait…wait…now!”

    Bella hit the execute button as the capture sphere dropped off the keel of the ship. And thrusters immediately started moving it towards the frigate that was giving chase to the Neutron Destiny. It went into its preprogrammed mode and started opening up as it was supposed to as the onboard brain calculated the size of the target and the two halves opened on the huge rear hinge. The sphere finally took its proper shape and started moving towards the frigate looking just like a huge monster ready to eat the ship whole. But it wasn’t fast enough to make a difference and the other frigate saw the extremely odd attack before alerting their comrades.

    “Shift fire with the main cannons and missiles to target…two,” ordered Colt.

    “Do I need to continue with the capture sphere?” asked Bella.

    “No, it’s on an automatic intercept although it probably won’t be able to capture the other frigate,” said Colt.

    Bella darted back to her station where she found only the two frigates and a single fighter still on the threat console and directed the weapons back to the other frigate. By this time, the shuttle had been destroyed enough for the other frigate to get back into the fight, although it still had to contend with the sphere chasing it and attempting to gobble it up. It was almost comical to see the large device attempting to grab the frigate as it applied its main engines and moved away far enough to come about and bring its weapons online. And started to fire at the threat from its aft defensive systems as it continued forward. The impacts were seen on the two sides of the sphere, but being made of some of the toughest metal known to man, it hardly dented the exterior at first. The frigate made an abrupt turn and continued firing with the aft weapons after bringing its main engines to full power in an attempt to escape.

    Bella saw there was only one fighter left to contend with as well as the two frigates. She brought the weapons back up and designated the frigates as targets for the remaining missiles. And saw they only had seven left of the original twenty-four in the compliment. However, she knew it wasn’t time to be frugal with the stores and hit the automatic attack sequence.

    The final fighter was beginning another strafing run against the bow of the ship near the bridge when the pilot saw a missile launch from the Atomic Destiny. He brought his craft downward towards the hull in an attempt to move away since he believed the threat was directed at him. And in moving away from the missile brought himself closer to the autocannon which tracked him and fired a long burst right down the middle of his craft. The rapid fire of the 30mm high explosive armor piercing shells detonated within his craft, ripping it in two and killing the pilot before he could even contemplate escape.

    “Missiles expended!” yelled Bella as the console warned her they were down to main cannons and autocannons only. “Wait! What are you doing?”

    “I know what I’m doing,” said Colt in an even voice.

    “Are you crazy?” asked Bella as her voice rose in fear.

    “I love you babe,” said Colt calmly as he adjusted his course slightly as the second frigate managed to destroy part of the hinge that held the capture sphere together. The two halves flopped around as the motors tried to keep it together along with trying to capture the object it had been ordered to. The frigate crew directed their entire attention on destroying the sphere in order to get back to dismantling the Atomic Destiny and had lost track of where the others were at during the fight.

    “Colt, I don’t think this is smart,” said Bella. “Not smart at all!”

    “We can take it!” grunted Colt as he hit the collision alarm and got on the intercom. “All hands, brace for impact!”

    As the second frigate completed the destruction of the capture sphere, the first was screaming out warnings as the Atomic Destiny closed the distance rapidly between the two undetected. Colt had planned it out to the millisecond as the ship came into full view of the front cameras and attempted to move away. But too little, too late as the reinforced bow of the Atomic Destiny made contact midship of the frigate and slammed it out of the way. While the impact didn’t destroy the frigate, Colt could see the ship was warped in the middle and her engines went out as she drifted to the starboard side. Several compartments were already venting as she drifted down the right side of the ship.

    “Mac, would you please give them our regards,” said Colt over the intercom.

    “Be glad too,” he grunted as he went into rapid fire on the damaged frigate and liberally raked the ship from bow to stern at point blank range. The other 150mm railguns fired as well as the autocannons firing bursts into the frigate as the Atomic Destiny continued by and headed back towards the other frigate. The chemical reaction warheads were designed to be used in either an atmosphere or would also explode in a vacuum and worked perfectly fine as shell after shell crashed into vital systems in the Zhao frigate. Several secondary explosions were seen as Mac continued to engage against the weapons emplacements and areas that had been previously damaged, trying to dig a hole deeper into the ship. Eventually the internal explosions on the frigate ripped it apart and it exploded, showering the Atomic Destiny with pieces as it shuddered from the close in explosion.

    Just as Colt was trying to bring her about to bear down on the remaining frigate, the safety programs installed in the system core activated and shut down the engines since the ship had just been in a major collision. And several more alarms started shouting at them due to the damage they had incurred from the impact.

    “Engines shutting down, venting in compartments 15 through 24, weapons out on starboard side, we’re down to maneuvering thrusters only,” said Bella as she checked the console.

    “Mac? Are you okay?” asked Colt over the intercom since his weapon station was in Compartment 18. “Mac!”

    “Yeah, I’ll survive,” said McMasters after a pause. “I managed to get out as I saw the frigate was about to blow and got into the adjacent compartment. I got banged up pretty good, but you’ll have to do worse than that to make me any uglier.”

    “You, Lilly and Becky head towards the life pods on the port side,” ordered Colt. “We’ve lost engines and can’t take much more.”

    “We’re not leaving you,” said Lilly.

    “That’s an order,” said Colt over the communicator as he turned to Bella. “You need to go too.”

    “No,” she replied in a soft voice.

    “Bella, you need to go,” said Colt. “Get in a life pod and get ready to eject. I’ll hold them off as long as I can.”

    “You order your crew around, but not me,” said Bella defiantly. “I’m not leaving you.”

    “You need to go,” said Colt as impacts were heard on the hull as the remaining Zhao frigate opened fire again. “Now is not the time to be stubborn.”

    “I’m not leaving you here to die!” she growled as a tear dropped down her cheek.

    “I can hold them off long enough for you all to escape,” he said. “I want you to survive.”

    “Fine, come with me,” she said as another tear escaped. “Please.”

    “I have to hold them off,” he said as he checked his console.

    “With what?” she exclaimed. “You have no engines and half the weapons are out.”

    “I’ll think of something,” said Colt. “Go, please.”

    “No,” she replied again and returned to her console. “Enemy ship closing on the starboard side.”

    “Bella,” he said.

    “Look, I already told you a long time ago that where you go, I go,” she said adamantly.

    “I don’t want to lose you,” he said.

    “Fine, come with me then,” said Bella as she wiped the tears from her face. “Zhao ship closing in. On a course to come down the damaged side.”

    “Colt, we’re at the pods,” said Sanchez over the communicator.

    “Get ready to go and I’ll let you know when,” said Colt. “But don’t wait for me if it gets bad.”

    “We’ve got another ship coming into range,” said Bella. “Just popped up!”

    “Okay, no arguments,” said Colt. “You get ready to go and I’ll be right behind you.”

    “Colt,” she said. “Are you telling me the truth?”

    “Yes,” he said without looking in her eyes. “Be right there, I promise.”

    And as he started setting the controls to automated, the Zhao frigate suddenly reversed course as multiple impacts were seen on the hull of the ship. And several more missiles impacted along the length of the ship as it was taking heavy damage from the new target. They saw the engines shut down as the ship started venting atmosphere as well as taking major damage as the attack didn’t stop. Eventually, the ship broke in two from a missile impact and one of the halves exploded. Colt could see the power was out in the second half as it drifted away from the battle zone. He didn’t see any rescue pods that had been ejected and didn’t feel bad about it either.

    “This is the WGE Heavy Cruiser Neil Armstrong calling Infinicon freighter Atomic Destiny,” said a voice over the open emergency channel. “Come in, Atomic Destiny.”

    “This is the Atomic Destiny,” said Colt as he got back on the communicator.

    Atomic Destiny, we are prepared to send over medical and engineering units to assist in damage control,” said the voice over the communicator. “Do you require assistance?”

    “Sure,” said Colt as the relief washed over him like a wave at what had just happened. Bella crossed the compartment and grabbed him in a hug, nearly strangling him in the process. They drew back the armor plating over the view screens and saw the large warship come into view on their starboard side as it entered into a holding pattern a few hundred meters away.

    Atomic Destiny, this is Captain Mitchell Thompson of the Armstrong,” said a new voice over the communicator. “Is Captain Winston available?”

    “Negative sir,” said Colt as he and Bella released their hold momentarily. “Be advised, Captain Winston, First Officer Talbert and Navigator Duncan were all killed in action.”

    “With whom am I speaking?” asked Thompson.

    “Chief Pilot Colt Daniels,” replied Colt.

    “We need landing instructions and permission to board, son,” said Thompson patiently.

    “Stand by one,” said Colt as he checked the controls and saw the doors for the now empty shuttle station was still intact although the surrounding areas had taken a beating. He hit several buttons and found the power came on for the landing lights as well as the automatic grappling system and connection tunnel. “Be advised, shuttle can dock on the top side shuttle dock. We have partial life support in some sections, but I’d outfit the teams with pressure suits just in case.”

    “Can you send a damage report via data transfer?” asked Thompson.

    “I’ve got that,” said Sanchez as she, Lilly and McMasters appeared on the bridge. Sanchez immediately checked the cargo compartment where the remainder of the crew was located and found that main power was still feeding the pods and it appeared there was no significant damage in that area of the ship.

    “Give us a minute to get it together,” said Colt to the Armstrong.

    “You had a bunch of folks worried,” said Thompson. “Good to see you alive.”

    “If I may ask, where did you come from sir?” asked Colt.

    “We were helping Infinicon do a search for you,” said Thompson. “And happened to be in the neighborhood when we picked up the emergency signals from the escape pods. I don’t know who’s idea it was to program them to pinpoint your location, but they deserve a medal. Anyway, we headed out at the best possible speed and when we arrived, we saw the Zhao frigate attacking you which invoked our defensive pact with Infinicon. And you know the rest.”

    “There was a second frigate as well sir,” said Colt.

    “Our scans show no life signs and no distress beacons from escape pods,” said Thompson.

    Colt managed not to reply with his initial thought of “good” and saw Sanchez preparing the data transfer to the Armstrong. “Be advised, damage report and engineering data being sent. Also be advised, we might have live bombs on board so if you have anyone with bomb disposal experience, it would be greatly appreciated.”

    “We have a few technicians that might be able to help, but I’d wait for a professional crew to arrive to disarm them,” said Thompson.

    “As long as they can tell us if they are armed or not will be fine,” said Colt.

    “We’re only reading five life signs on your ship,” said Thompson. “Is that all that survived?”

    “Negative sir,” said Colt. “The rest of the crew and passengers are in stasis.”

    “You did well to save them,” said Thompson. “Teams are departing at this time.”

    Atomic Destiny is standing by,” said Colt.

    “We’re getting in all sorts of communications,” said Lilly from her console as she acknowledged the communications. “Nine ships are tasked to come to our location. A cruiser, two frigates, a corvette, two gunships, the Normandy Destiny, the Mercy Destiny and the Fargo Destiny are forming up and heading our way.”

    “The Fargo is an engineering ship equipped for repairs,” said Sanchez. “And if memory serves, the Normandy is a fast troop transport.”

    “The Normandy was my first ship,” said Colt. “It’s probably got a security contingent.”

    “They are forming a convoy and will be here in four days,” said Lilly as she read the dispatches.

    “We’ll make critical repairs with the help of the Armstrong and save the heavy stuff for the Fargo. We need to start waking up our people, but in stages with the engineering and medical folks first and working our way down,” said Colt as he slumped over in the captain’s chair.

    “You look like you could use a vacation,” said Sanchez as she started prioritizing the critical systems to be brought online by the emergency crews from the Armstrong.

    “We were heading for a vacation,” Colt chuckled as he was joined by Bella who sat on his lap and took him into another hug.

    “Don’t you ever, ever do something like that again!” she whispered.

    “I won’t crash another ship,” he chuckled. “I promise.”

    “No, don’t you ever think of trying to leave me alone in this galaxy,” she said and hugged him again. “You were ready to sacrifice yourself for me and that’s not how it works.”

    “How does it work?” he asked.

    “You and I grow old together watching the stars,” she replied and gave him a kiss.

    “Can you two take it to your quarters?” asked McMasters as he interrupted their moment. “I feel like I’m in a bad romantic movie and about to go into mushy overload here.”

    “Your simulation can help console you if you’re feeling left out,” said Bella irately.

    “You’ve got a keeper there Colt,” laughed McMasters as he took the prod in stride.

    “Indeed,” said Colt as he gathered another kiss.
    bagpiper, techsar, rle737ng and 2 others like this.
  8. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    CHAPTER 30

    “We’ve made the critical repairs needed to get you to Gemini,” said the senior engineer as he approached with Doug Schultz. “We’ll leave an additional engineering and repair team on board in case you need it while underway.”

    “Thank you,” said Colt who knew there was already a platoon of the security forces onboard as a just in case measure. Nobody expected any more hostile forces to board along the way, but Colt knew the corporate headquarters wasn’t taking any chances.

    “The temporary shuttle is in place and locked down,” said Schultz.

    “But if you want, we can shadow you back in case of trouble,” said the senior engineer.

    “I couldn’t imagine we’d find trouble out here in empty space,” said Colt with a wry smile. “But I think we’ll be okay for the short trip.”

    “Call us if you need us,” said the engineer as he headed off to collect his team to depart on the shuttle to his ship. A small armada from Infinicon surrounded the area although the gunships were standing by to escort the medical frigate Mercy Destiny and the engineering ship Fargo Destiny back to their home ports. It was uneasy knowing that another Zhao attack could be in the making, but the Atomic Destiny would be under escort the remainder of the way home by the cruiser Hammerhead Destiny and corvette Quark Destiny. Several ships would remain in the area as the debris from the space battle would be cleared up and salvaged if at all possible. They were already breaking down the wrecked capture sphere and had already salvaged the larger parts of the Neutron Destiny which was a total loss.

    The bombs had already been disarmed and taken off by a team from the Security Forces after the Infinicon task force had arrived which caused the crew to evacuate the ship for a short period. And as Sanchez suspected, the bombs had serious booby-traps built in that would normally prevent any tampering with the devices. But they managed to render them inert and searched the ship for any additional devices before the heavy repairs got underway. They had taken significant damage, but the ship was tough and had come back to life in short order.

    “Message from headquarters sir,” said Lilly as she approached with a tablet. Colt looked over the contents and signed off on the dispatch before turning to the remaining crew on the bridge.

    “We’re to get underway to the Gemini Space Dock as originally planned,” said Colt. “And I am to assume temporary command for the remainder of the voyage.”

    “Is that all?” asked Sanchez.

    “No, I’m to appoint temporary duty positions in needed areas,” said Colt. “And I need a watch officer for the night shift on the way home.”

    “Schultz would be a good choice,” said Sanchez.

    “I was thinking more along the lines of you,” said Colt. “Doug is needed in engineering.”

    “I’m not command rated,” said Sanchez.

    “I don’t care,” said Colt. “The dispatch gives me exigent command authority and that comes with the ability to put those in positions of need. And I…everyone really needs you in that position on the way back.”

    “I won’t turn you down,” said Sanchez. “But I’d rather not.”

    “You know more about this ship than anyone on board,” said Colt. “I need a First Officer that knows the ship, the personnel and most importantly, can think under fire. And frankly, I can’t think of anyone better than you.”

    “I accept,” said Sanchez. “But only temporarily.”

    “The message traffic says we should limit the amount of officers into those positions,” said Colt. “While Schultz can and will fill in from time to time, you and I will share the position in twelve hour shifts along the way.”

    “I understand,” said Sanchez as Bella came to Colt.

    “We’ve got main power back to the remaining living quarters,” said Bella as she wiped her hands off on a rag. She had changed into an Infinicon jumpsuit to better blend in and had been instrumental in helping bring the ship back to life. “To include our own.”

    “Good,” said Colt. “And thank you.”

    “If I may make a suggestion,” said Sanchez before departing.

    “Sure,” said Colt.

    “It seems there is an open position on the sensor station,” said Sanchez. “And I know a person on this ship that appears to know that position fairly well.”

    “She certainly does,” said Colt as he looked at Bella.

    “What?” asked Bella.

    “Think you can handle the sensors for the trip home?” asked Colt. “At least while I’m working.”

    “I’m not even a member of the crew!” protested Bella.

    “Could have fooled me when you were helping with the repairs,” said Lilly from her station. She had radically changed over the past few days and become more than accepting of Bella, even to the point of joking around. And had not even thrown one flirtatious remark at Colt in that time and kept things strictly professional.

    “And keeping us alive while we were fighting,” said Sanchez.

    “That’s different!” exclaimed Bella.

    “One of my sensor officers was killed after we were taken over,” said Sanchez. “And one resigned his commission over what happened and departed on the Mercy Destiny. I’m taking the First Officer duties for the trip home which leaves us seriously unmanned.”

    “I don’t know that much about the system,” said Bella.

    “Yes you do,” said Sanchez. “You managed to operate that station under combat conditions and did a damn fine job of it as well. I’m pretty sure you can operate it without much supervision.”

    “I’m not going to get out of this am I?” asked Bella.

    “Sure you can,” said Colt. “If you don’t feel like you are up to the job, we’ll find someone else.”

    “You know better,” said Bella with a look.

    “So you’ll fill in?” asked Colt.

    “I accept,” said Bella very confidently.

    “Stations please,” said Colt with a hidden smile. The crew resumed their positions and completed the remaining checks as Sanchez peeked over Bella’s shoulder and saw she didn’t need much help in bringing the sensor station to life.

    “Course plotted sir,” said the navigator.

    “Engineering?” asked Colt.

    “Engines and reactors are online and in the green,” said Schultz from his section. “Ready for burn at your command sir.”

    “Signal the Quark and the Hammerhead for departure,” said Colt. “Mister Mendoza, please take us home.”

    “Aye sir,” said Mendoza from his station as he brought the engines online and slowly turned the ship back onto their course for Earth. He slowly brought the ship up to speed to finish the voyage that had changed the lives of so many on board. The corvette and cruiser didn’t have any problems matching the speeds as they increased as Mendoza was taking it easy on the temporary repairs that had been made. But they made it to cruise speed before long.

    “We are in cruise mode sir,” said Mendoza who almost wanted to call Colt “Captain” but stopped just short of saying the word.

    “The Quark and Hammerhead are matching speed on our port and starboard sides,” said Bella.

    “Crew can secure from launch stations and resume duty schedules,” said Colt. He watched the stars in the main screen as they sped along and was joined by Bella at his side.

    “Ignoring your station?” he asked with half a grin.

    “I know the temporary Captain,” said Bella as she looked at the stars. “And I have some sway over him in these matters.”

    “Do you now?” he asked.

    “Yep, and he would oblige me the opportunity to stand next to the man I love for a moment and reflect on what happened,” said Bella.

    “He’s glad you were along for this trip,” said Colt. “Or he’d be dead right now.”

    “He’s not going anywhere without me,” said Bella as she took his hand and gave him a warm smile. “Not without my permission that is.”

    “I love you,” said Colt.

    “I love you too,” said Bella who returned the smile and went back to watching the stars with a sigh.


    Battered, yet unbroken, Mendoza eased the Atomic Destiny towards the large space dock and maneuvered the ship into position for the automated program to take over. He slowed the rate of closure as the “landing lights” showed he was right in the path for a perfect capture. There was a holographic image that showed the ship’s position relative to the space dock, but pride wouldn’t let him use it as he used his trained eyes and the feel of the ship on approach. Colt was watching him from the Captain’s chair and felt extremely uncomfortable in the seat as he was used to being in Mendoza’s position.

    Atomic Destiny, we have you at three hundred meters,” said the docking master’s voice over the communications system,

    “Roger three hundred meters, slowing to two meters per second,” replied Mendoza. And the seconds ticked away as he adjusted the course ever so slightly to keep it in the prime spot.

    “One hundred meters, moorings retracting,” said the dock master.

    “One hundred meters, slowing to a half meter per second,” he said as tapped on the retro thrusters to slow the ship even further.

    “Fifty meters,” said the dock master.

    “Fifty meters, slowing to quarter meter,” replied Mendoza. With a ship this large, he took every precaution to avoid hitting the space dock and slow was the rule of the day.

    “Ten meters, we have initial capture,” said the dock master.

    “Ten meters,” he replied as the ship inched forward.

    Atomic Destiny, we have capture. Automated docking is in control,” said the dock master.

    “Roger, shutting down propulsion,” said Mendoza and ordered the ship to cease flying.

    “Good flying Justin,” said Colt.

    “Thank you sir,” said Mendoza with a polite nod as he was shutting down the systems.

    Atomic Destiny, please prepare for official boarding party,” said the dock master as the thud of the connecting tunnel was heard nearby. “And welcome back.”

    “Thanks Gemini,” said Colt as he watched the crew continue the shutdown procedures.

    “I’ll make sure everything is shut down,” said Sanchez as she came over to his station. “You’re the most senior member on the ship at the moment. You have to welcome the boarding party.”

    “I don’t feel very senior,” he stated as he relinquished control of the bridge to Sanchez. Bella wasn’t sure what she should do, but departed the sensor station after she finished shutting down her console as well. She tagged along behind Colt as he headed to the airlock station.

    Colt and Bella arrived at the airlock as they felt the ship come to a stop and the airlock passage attach itself to the outer hull with a clunk. The lights above the doorway went green and Colt opened the airlock to find the official party waiting in the passageway.

    “Permission to come aboard?” asked the lead in the party. And not who he was suspecting.

    “Permission granted,” said Colt, barely able to utter the words. The entire corporate leadership was waiting in the passageway with the Corporate President in the lead. There were additional politicians behind him, but it appears pomp and circumstances would be observed as the President was first on board.

    “Chief Pilot Colt Daniels I presume?” asked the President.

    “Yes sir,” he said and took the outstretched hand.

    “Kyle Minters,” he said and shook hands quickly. “And you must be our stowaway.”

    “Bella Phillips,” she said and had a look of confusion.

    “This is the Infinicon President,” explained Colt.

    “Oh, my pleasure!” exclaimed Bella.

    “The pleasure is all mine,” said Minters as he shook her hand as well. “Your help in bringing this ship back was instrumental according to the official report I got.”

    “I just helped where I could sir,” said Bella.

    “Please, call me Kyle,” said the President. “That goes for the both of you.”

    “Yes sir,” replied Colt.

    “Please show me what happened,” said the President as they led the entourage throughout the ship. Colt described the takeover and how they had reclaimed the ship and other areas of interest along the way. And the battle damage they had taken during the brawl with the Zhao frigates. They eventually arrived at the bridge where Sanchez was finishing up shutting down the systems and was introduced as well. Colt had no problem giving credit where credit was due although Sanchez tried to shy away from it.

    “BJ, it’s been some time hasn’t it?” asked the President as he took Sanchez into a hug.

    “Sure has Kyle,” said Sanchez as she returned the hug as Colt had a look of utter confusion on his face. He looked at the pair back and forth and tried to figure out what was going on.

    “BJ is my cousin,” said the President.

    “What?” exclaimed Colt.

    “Nobody else in this universe calls me BJ except him,” said Sanchez with a laugh. “Becky Jane Sanchez which he shortened to BJ.”

    “Wow,” said Colt not finding anything more intelligent to say.

    “I would like to give my condolences for the loss of Captain Winston, First Officer Talbert and Navigator Duncan along with the others that lost their lives. Nobody wants to lose any member of a crew, but this was entirely uncalled for. They all will be truly missed,” said the President.

    “It certainly was,” said Colt, still angered over the senseless deaths of the Captain and his wife along with the other members of the crew and their families.

    “And rest assured, this deed has not gone unpunished,” said the President. “The Zhao corporate leadership has already been taken into arrest and will stand trial for what happened.”

    “What happened?” asked Colt.

    “We had several more Zhao military vessels shadowing some of our commercial fleet. As well as ships from some other corporations that were a tad nervous,” said the President. “They aren’t shadowing them any longer.”

    “I’d hope they aren’t going all out,” said Colt.

    “I doubt it as what’s left of their fleet is falling back and regrouping,” said the President. “They are being watched by an armada from Infinicon, WGE, K4, the Alliance and BAE.”

    “Waiting for another opportunity to strike?” asked Colt.

    “There probably won’t be,” said the President. “When their fleet was destroyed at Makemake, they lost the majority of their combat projection power. They were trying to rebuild, but they didn’t want to try to get into an arms race with the other corporations. So they backed off and tried new tactics like terrorism instead.”

    “And the new corporate leadership?” asked Bella.

    “Knows the mistakes of the previous leadership and has been far more amicable,” said the President. “They know what will happen if they cross over the line again.”

    “I understand,” said Bella.

    “I’d like to speak to you two alone please,” said the President. “BJ, I’m sure we’ll catch up while you’re on Earth.”

    “I’ll be over as soon as I get finished with the debriefing,” said Sanchez as she went back to shutting down the ship’s systems. Bella and Colt walked away with the President as they journeyed back through the ship.

    “If I’m to understand things correctly, you two are engaged and going to be married,” he stated.

    “Yes sir,” answered Colt for the both of them. “As soon as I get her parent’s blessing.”

    “Consorting with the enemy there,” chuckled the President.

    “Which part? The fact they will be in-laws or employees of WGE?” he laughed.

    “Both,” laughed the President. “But that’s not the reason I wanted to speak to you.”

    “We’re all ears,” said Bella as she took Colt’s hand in hers.

    “Frankly, what are your intentions?” he asked.

    “Our intentions?” asked Colt.

    “Your long term goals,” said the President. “What are your plans after this? It’s my understanding Miss Phillips has a residence and employment on Pluto and you applied for the chief dock pilot in the Pluto Docks.”

    “You what?” asked Bella.

    “I wasn’t sure if you wanted to move or not,” said Colt. “I was going to surprise you if you decided to stay at your home. Part of the conversation we never got to finish.”

    “It’s certainly a surprise,” she stated. “But I would never make you move away from something you loved. And you love being a pilot. My home is where yours will be.”

    “I love you more,” he said.

    “No matter what, I have plans for something other than piloting for him,” said the President, breaking into their moment. “And perhaps even you.”

    “Sir?” asked Bella.

    “This ship will now have to undergo some serious repairs as well as the planned refitting and overhaul. New engines, new core, new controls, the whole works. And will likely be out of service for quite some time at this point. But mainly, it’s a ship without a Captain and First Officer at the moment,” said the President. “And that needs to be fixed.”

    “Okay,” said Colt, although not grasping what the President was talking about.

    “Are you hinting at what I think you’re hinting at?” asked Bella who picked it up immediately.

    “What am I hinting at?” asked the President.

    “First Officer Colt Daniels?” she asked.

    “Actually, that would be Captain Colt Daniels and Chief Technical Systems Officer Bella Phillips,” said the President as Bella’s mouth dropped open at the announcement. “Or Phillips-Daniels. Or Daniels. Whatever the case may be once you get married, I want you both.”

    “I’ve never even served as a crew member on a modern reclamation freighter!” she protested.

    “You appear to not need much training in the matter,” said the President. “And I’d say growing up on one counts as plenty of experience. According to the reports I read, you were instrumental in gaining back control of the ship’s systems as well as being proficient in areas most normal civilians are not like engineering and sensors. Now I can’t legally promote you straight to First Officer, but you’d have those duties in all but title. And in time, that will change as well.”

    “What reports?” exclaimed Bella.

    “From your fiancé for starters,” said Minters. “As well as the other senior staff on board like Doug Schultz, BJ and Harry Howell. They basically said this ship and everyone on it would have been dead had you not been thinking on your feet.”

    “I…wow,” said Bella.

    “A Captain?” asked Colt. “As in master of the Atomic Destiny?”

    “The job is yours if you want it,” said the President. “And I don’t expect you to answer right away since I know you’ll want to talk this over with each other. And if you decline, I’d say that chief dock pilot’s job is pretty much guaranteed to be yours. Actually, pretty much any job you ask for will be yours. And Bella, if we need to find a position for you in Infinicon anywhere in the System, I happen to know some folks in the Human Resources department that I can put in a good word with.”

    “Aren’t there others that are way ahead of me?” asked Colt. “Including some of this crew like Becky, Doug Schultz or even Harry Howell?”

    “I love BJ to death, but she’s content to be a technician for her career although I planned on grounding her after this flight anyway. She was the obvious choice to be next in line for the job even though she’s not command rated, but I know she’d turn me down anyway. Same goes for Harry Howell. He’s content to pick apart space rocks and be a specialist for the most part. Doug Schultz has been selected to move onto the Titan Destiny as her First Officer.”

    “But yes, I do have other Captains and First Officers out there ahead of you. But I also know you’re the most senior officer left on this ship. And you both handled yourselves rather well during this crisis. And as such, we reward loyalty in this company. And basically I owe you my life along with about fifteen million other people. Maybe even more if it actually crashed and those bombs went off. So I couldn’t think of a more ample reward than giving you this ship as your own,” concluded the President.

    “A Captain…” said Colt as his voice trailed off. “Really?”

    “Your performance evaluations are always off the charts,” he replied. “And Captain Winston has tried to adopt you at some point or other. You’re respected by both the crews and the leadership on all the vessels you’ve served on as a highly proficient pilot with a future for bigger and brighter things. You’d likely be in line for a command in the next five to ten years anyway. I think this incident just pushed it up a bit.”

    “Wow,” stated Colt, again not finding anything more constructive to reply with.

    “No matter what, I want you to be involved in the refit,” said the President. “Along with BJ and Harry. And Miss Phillips, you appear to have a serious working knowledge of our ships although your parents flew on WGE ships. I’d love to have you as a technical advisor during the refit as a minimum. And who knows, the ship might grow on you after a while.”

    “We’d be honored,” she said, answering for the both of them.

    “To accept the positions as Captain and Chief Technical Systems Officer?” he asked.

    “Absolutely,” she stated. “Colt won’t argue with me, trust me.”

    “I’m standing right here you know,” said Colt as he grabbed her around the waist.

    “So it’s a done deal?” asked the President.

    “I couldn’t think of any other place in the System I’d like to be,” said Colt.

    “And I’ve grown attached to this bucket of bolts during the time I’ve been here,” said Bella. “She’s a tough old bird and has a lot of soul.”

    “Outstanding!” said the President. “Obviously there’s some additional debriefing to be done about this whole incident as well as the planned vacation. And the command school you both have to attend. But I need you back here as soon as the refit starts. A Captain should be familiar with all the ship’s systems.”

    “Of course I could use a little help with the computer systems,” said Colt as he looked at Bella.

    “A lot of help,” she laughed.

    “We’ll meet again before you take her back out on the shakedown cruise,” said the President as he turned to leave. “But until then, Captain Daniels, I leave the Atomic Destiny in your charge.”

    The three shook hands as he departed with the remainder of the official party. Little did Colt know there would be an awards ceremony not long after as well as the extended debriefing on the lovely beaches of Cuba. And the inevitable meeting with her parents in Maine where he received not only their blessing, but their encouragement to both of them in taking the positions offered as Captain and Chief Technical Systems Officer. But Colt knew it wasn’t going to work like that as they would work as equals as they certainly were. And of course his parents absolutely adored her and were very happy with his choice in the matter as well as their new positions as they knew he was always destined for bigger things.
  9. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++


    “Good afternoon Jake,” said a female voice from his side as he checked over some paperwork for renewing the lease on the property Club Plutonium sat on. For the millionth time since she departed, he missed Bella and her knack for making sense of the corporate gobbledygook on the forms and really needed her around to interpret.

    “Hi…Becky?” he asked as he saw Becky Sanchez standing across from him.

    “Oh don’t act like you don’t know who I am,” said Sanchez.

    “It’s just been a while since you’ve graced us with your presence,” said Jake. “And I didn’t realize the Atomic Destiny was due in. Where are Colt and Bella?”

    Captain Colt Daniels and Chief Technical Systems Officer Bella Daniels are overseeing the refit and repair of the Atomic Destiny at the Gemini Space Dock,” said Sanchez.

    “Captain and what?” asked Jake with a puzzled look.

    “We kind of had a little trouble on our way back,” said Sanchez.

    “Sounds like a story I want to hear,” said Jake.

    “Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you about it,” said Sanchez.

    “Absolutely,” he said as he set the tablet behind him and fished two beers out of the cooler.

    “And afterwards when you treat me to dinner we can talk about us,” she stated.

    “Ma’am?” he asked as he stopped and looked at her.

    “Dinner,” she said. “According to Bella you think I’m hot stuff or something along those lines. So I think now would be a good time for you to act accordingly and invite me to dinner.”

    “Those words might have been used in connection with your name at some point,” said Jake.

    “But not now?” she asked.

    “No, I mean, yes!” exclaimed Jake. “You are still a very attractive woman.”

    “And you’re not a bad looking guy yourself,” said Sanchez. “Even a bit charming once one figures out that your gruff exterior is nothing more than an act.”

    “I’m, uhh, kind of at a loss here,” said Jake.

    “It’s simple really,” said Sanchez. “You bring over the beers that are currently warming in your hands and I tell you about Colt and Bella as well as showing you pictures from their wedding. And afterwards we get to know each other by going out to dinner.”

    “I don’t have anything else planned for this evening,” said Jake.

    “Good,” said Sanchez. “Look, I’m single, interested and recently retired and seeing what retirement on Pluto has to offer. You’re single, interested and happen to be on Pluto. So let’s see where that leads us. We’re both too old to be playing games and I’m kind of blunt.”

    “No, I didn’t detect that at all,” he said with a sarcastic chuckle.

    “So I’ll be sitting at this table right over there and you make up your mind on whether you want to come over,” said Sanchez as she turned and had a seat looking away from him.

    “You best get over there,” said Monica.

    “I’m going, I’m going,” said Jake as he closed up the cooler.

    “Not moving fast enough,” said Monica.

    “You are Bella’s replacement,” said Jake. “Which doesn’t mean that gives you the liberty of being sassy to me like she did.”

    “Yes it does,” said Monica. “Bye, go sit with the lady you think is hot stuff and share a beer. I’ll make reservations for you two at the Old Rome tonight.”

    Jake sighed and chuckled at the situation as it stood. And headed over to the table where Becky was waiting to see what happened to be found down that particular road.


    “Departure stations please,” said Captain Colt Daniels from the chair he still wasn’t comfortable with and saying words he wasn’t used to saying. “Gemini Docks, this is the Atomic Destiny. Permission to depart on shakedown cruise.”

    Atomic Destiny, this is Gemini Dock Control, you are clear to proceed,” said the controller.

    “Reactors online, we have departure clearance and everything is in the green,” said Chief Technical Systems Officer Bella Daniels from her station just to the left of Colt. She was even more uncomfortable in the current position since she had never served a day in the Infinicon Fleet, but would meet the challenge head on as she did everything in life.

    “Susan, take us out please,” said Colt.

    “Aye Captain,” said Chief Pilot Susan Yamato-Mendoza from her seat. In another surprise, she and Justin Mendoza had eloped and gotten married while on shore leave using the excuse “life is too short not to do the things you should.” And in turn, Colt found his new position as Captain granted him some sway in picking his staff as Yamato-Mendoza had passed the trials for the Chief Pilot position and barely edged out Justin Mendoza by one point on the testing portion. While young for a Chief Pilot much like he was, Colt saw the both of them had high ceilings and would only get better as time went on. He continued to mentor them as much as he could, but also saw they were picking things up far more rapidly than even he did and were destined to be great pilots in their own right. She brought her controls online and communicated with the dock before moving the ship slowly out of the moorings and turning it around to point at the stars.

    “Navigation?” asked Colt.

    “Captain’s discretion,” said the new senior navigator. “We’re on a shakedown cruise.”

    “Mrs. Yamato-Mendoza, haul the sheet in as we ride on the wind that our forefathers harnessed before us,” said Colt.

    “Sorry sir?” asked Yamato-Mendoza.

    “Nothing, just an old song,” said Colt. “You may see what our ship is capable of.”

    “Aye sir,” said Yamato-Mendoza. “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”
    oldawg, tired-medic, rle737ng and 4 others like this.
  10. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Nice story, Grand...
    I have to admit I initially thought the character development was a bit overdone. As the action scenes came up, however, your forethought enabled the story to continue flowing without the need to revisit the relationships, bar a couple minor cases.
    ...in light of this, I'll just keep my trap shut and let you finish the trilogy ;)
    Thanks again!
    Grand58742 and Tully Mars like this.
  11. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    Great story, thank you for sharing your work with us!
    Grand58742 and Tully Mars like this.
  12. bagpiper

    bagpiper Heretic

    An excellent addition to the genre of space opera. I give it four stars, only because it is still in need of a proof reader for minor stuff...
    Trilogy, did techsar say trilogy? I missed that...
    (love that dancing banana...)
    Grand58742 and Tully Mars like this.
  13. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    A great read Grand. Enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for sharing it here!:)
    Grand58742 likes this.
  14. rle737ng

    rle737ng Monkey+++

    Good read. I look forward to more.
    Grand58742 likes this.
  15. Grand58742

    Grand58742 Monkey+++

    No, no trilogy in the works lol This was written as a standalone although I could go several different directions with the concept. However, Chris is the resident sci-fi writer around here and I was just tinkering a bit with something different from my normal mode.

    In looking back, the character development was kind of longer than it possibly needed to be, but it was also kind of my romantic side showing out as well. I've seen a lot of ladies comment the stories are too "manly" for their tastes from time to time so I figured I'd delve into my mushy side for a moment and give that a whirl. It's something to consider in the future when I'm writing.

    As always, I appreciate all the support I got from the folks here and look forward to posting more in the future.
  16. john316

    john316 Monkey+++

    great story grand
    Grand58742 likes this.
  17. oldawg

    oldawg Monkey+++

    Very enjoyable read, thanks.
    john316 and Grand58742 like this.
  18. eeyore

    eeyore Monkey+++

    I enjoyed the story a lot. Read it in one setting. Thank you
    john316 and Grand58742 like this.
  19. rle737ng

    rle737ng Monkey+++

    Just re-read this. Even better the second time. Pity no sequel.
  1. john316
  2. john316
    Thread by: john316, Oct 6, 2018, 6 replies, in forum: Survival Reading Room
  3. Asia-Off-Grid

    Never Too Young 2008

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  4. Asia-Off-Grid
  5. Asia-Off-Grid
  6. Asia-Off-Grid

    One Man Alone 2008

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  7. Asia-Off-Grid

    China Gamble 2008

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  8. Asia-Off-Grid

    Dude 2007

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  9. Asia-Off-Grid

    Cowboy 2007

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  10. Asia-Off-Grid

    Claude 2007

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  11. Asia-Off-Grid
  12. Asia-Off-Grid
  13. Asia-Off-Grid

    Haroldsville 2007

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  14. Asia-Off-Grid

    The Fifth Key 2009

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  15. Asia-Off-Grid

    Clueless 2011

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  16. Asia-Off-Grid
  17. Asia-Off-Grid

    Stretch 2009

    Survival Fiction, By Jerry D Young. [IMG]
    Posted By: Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 20, 2018 in category: Survival Fiction
  18. Asia-Off-Grid
  19. Asia-Off-Grid
  20. Asia-Off-Grid
survivalmonkey SSL seal        survivalmonkey.com warrant canary