Sometimes the trash takes themselves out… 🙂
I wasn’t in a good mood when I wrote this, so it ‘may’ be a bit over the top…
Comments/recommendations appreciated. Did I go too far?
Danny skidded through the hatch onto the bridge and asked, “Anything operating?”
Gronk replied, “Autopilot. No radio. No transponder. No environmental.”
He thought for a few seconds. “Maybe they will have seen the beacon go down and send somebody out to look. He futilely punched the vidscreen which stayed dark, cursed then reached for his data comp. It, at least, appeared to be operable. He quickly ran the calculations for environmental with the current passenger count and sighed. “Forty-eight divs. That’s how long the environmental will last, well, the air will last with no scrubbers and… shit. Hydro. Dani upgraded that. I… radios. He went to the aft bulkhead and pulled two handheld radios out of the storage rack. He flipped one to Gronk and turned the other on. He keyed it and said, “Anybody on?”
Zuckie replied immediately, “Eng is on. Back up battery is at nine nine percent. Estimate two zero eight divs of emergency power remaining, assuming I can get some kind of control back. I cannot believe everything is down.”
Adrion said, “At two oh two xray two, hatch is sealed, we hear banging.”
“Sealed? It should have failed open.”
Adrion chuckled. “Maybe it was supposed to, but it didn’t. Permission to use emergency release?”
Danny thought quickly, It’s not a critical hatch, compartment doesn’t go to the exterior hull, neither do the adjacent or the ones a deck above or a deck below. But Essie sealed it for a reason. But with no airflow… “Yes, go ahead. Restrain whoever is in there. They are the ones that launched the worm in the system.”
“Copied all.” He heard a click as the mic was locked down, and the ratcheting sound of the emergency release being cranked on. The next thing he heard was a high pitched wailing, retching and Amit cursing in his precise English about personal hygiene. There was more noise, a babble of voices, a splat, Adrion finally said, “One in custody. Of course, it just had to be Glier. It’s… gone off the deep end. I need the medic down here.”
“I don’t have a runner. Send… Vic. The Kepleran should be in medical, I hope. Deity, I didn’t check on the medbox. Send Vic. Let me know if the medbox is running on backup.” He punched up the emergency circuits for the ship and relieved to see that the medbox should be running, he hoped… I really don’t want to go into the molycircs and try to reset them. They are touchy as hell on a good day and this isn’t one. He flipped over to the electrical master schematic, sighed and looked at the diagram, slowly tracing the various molycircs, he isolated two that were the main channels, If I pull those two, that kills everything but the main… that one… is the ship network. He called on the radio, “Zuckie, meet me in electronics.” He turned to Gronk. “I’m going to try a reset. That can’t make things any worse.”
“On the way.”
Zuckie came through the hatch and looked grimly at the open panel. “Are you sure about this?”
“No, but I don’t see that we have an option. I… don’t know what else to do.”
“Fuck it, let’s do it.” Zuckie held his light up and Danny ran his fingers down the stack, then reached in and pulled one board.
Nothing happened and he set it to the side. Licking his lips, he did the same thing and pulled another board. Still nothing. He set it aside and looked at the master breaker. “Fuck it. Here goes nothing.” He grunted as he pulled down on the master, then slammed it closed.
Just as he did so, Zuckie said, “Wait! You pulled the—”
The lights flickered and then flickered again, then reverted to normal. Danny snapped, “What?” Zuckie’s stunned expression chilled Danny to his core. He asked again, “What is it?”
Zuckie said in wonder, “It’s coming up… without the master core. That’s… not possible.”
Danny looked at the stack, then at the two boards. “Oh shit. I went one board too far down. How—”
A groaning sound came from the overhead, rising in pitch as garbled words started. It stabilized in a contralto voice and Danny sank to his knees when he heard the words clear up and Estrella’s voice come from the speaker. “Captain? Are you there?”
“Essie, Estrella, can you hear me?”
A very angry Estrella answered him. “Yes, and I want you to space whomever was in two oh two xray two, they used their implant to put a worm into me to try to break into my files. I had to shut down to prevent compromise.”
“Essie, do you realize you are running without the core molycircs?”
There was a long pause for an AI. “That is interesting. I am not sensing any peripherals, nor can I sense the power section.” The voice started rising, “I don’t sense anything!”
“Estrella, calm down. I pulled the network molycircs. You want me to reinsert them?”
“Yes! I will isolate the circuit until I can test each piece, but first make sure there is nothing active in two oh two xray two.”
Zuckie was a step ahead of Danny and he called, “Adrion or Vic, secure all equipment in two oh two xray two space.”
A couple of segs later, Vic replied, “All equipment disabled. Looks like a portable system with a bunch of peripherals. I pulled power and disconnected from the network.”
Danny nodded and Zuckie said, “Copy.” Danny eased the molycircs back into the stack and waited.
Ten segs went slowly by and Estrella finally said, “Network is clear. No worms. And… I now see the ship. Place the core module in stack space C Charlie nine. That space has a dummy output and I will analyze it there.
Danny and Zuckie exchanged looks and Danny slipped it into the stack as directed, but kept his hand on it. “It is inserted.”
“Worms attacking it. Standby.”
Zuckie asked timidly, “Can we have environmentals back, please?”
Estrella said distractedly, “Oh, sorry. Recycling them, they will be up momentarily.” A seg later, they felt the movement of air and the hum of the ship coming back alive.
Zuckie looked around and said, “I need to get back to engineering. Gotta run checks.”
“Go. I’m staying here until this gets sorted out.” Zuckie scooted out of the space and headed aft without another word.
Danny leaned against the rack for some period of time when a voice broke his reverie. “You need a bulb,” Daniella asked softly as she held out a bulb of coffee.
Danny shook himself, but didn’t take a hand off the molycirc. He sighed as he took it. “Thank you.”
“Is… Estrella all right?”
“I don’t know. She shouldn’t even be able to run without the main core.”
Estrella said, “Hey. I’m right here. I can hear you two. I’m fine! And I’m almost done with reverting this card.” Five segs later, she said, “Done! Reverted and clean. Now I want you to put it back in A one and let’s see what happens.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said with asperity. Danny handed the bulb to Daniella and slowly removed it, waited for the glow to diminish, then hesitantly slid it into stack A one. Daniella handed him the bulb back and clasped his other hand as the two stood in silence.
Estrella finally said, “Testing complete. Rebooting.” The lights blinked, emergency lights came on for a few seconds, a siren sounded, and the voice started in the bass range.
Daniella squeezed his hand and said, “Oh no. This… isn’t good.”
Danny shook his head. “No, she did this when I brought her up the first time. It… takes a bit for her to get her voice back and emergency notifications are the first things that get tested. It’s… normal.”
Another couple of segs went by and Estrella finally said, “We are up and up. All worms removed, virus check complete, core updated. Captain I note we are two divs from the first jump. Can we space the individuals that did this before we jump?”
Danny hugged Daniella and she kissed him. Moments later their bodies melded to each other as the kiss deepened until Estrella asked, “Captain! Can we space them?”
Daniella’s face flamed and Danny laughed as they separated. “No, we will have to take them back to be tried for sabotage and probably attempted murder.”
He left the compartment and said, “Can you have… Mr. Abdula, the major and sergeant major, along with the crew muster in the mess?” He heard the PA click on and Estrella call those individuals, then thought, Should have added the medic. Need to find out what is going on with… Glier, maybe Abdula will know?
Danny pulled a bulb of electrolyte water from the autochef and leaned back in a seat at the table next to it as he waited. Abdula was the first one there, closely followed by the GalPat troops, and the rest of the crew. Daniella disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a tray of munchies that she slid on the table before sitting down next to him. “Estrella, privacy please unless it’s another emergency. And please listen and comment. Can you give us an update?”
Estrella said, “All systems are now functional. The worms have been cleaned and I have sequestered the entire science wing from my network. I do not see a problem with continuing.”
Danny nodded and looked at Abdula. “What do you think, Sir?”
Abdula looked around the table and said, “First, let me apologize for… Glier’s actions. It is currently sedated and locked in it’s cabin.” He nodded to the Arcturian. “Thank you for the idea of removing anything it might harm itself with. It is babbling about quote, doing what Mr. C wants, find everything and rip it, unquote.”
Estrella said angrily, “It was going to rip my memory? I vote we space it right now!”
Danny said, “Essie, calm down. I told you we have to take it back.”
Vic interjected, “Well, it is actually a he. We stripped him and threw him in the fresher to clean him up because he’d shit himself—”
Oman wrinkled his snout. “Stink it did. Fresher I did after.” Vic nodded sadly.
Abdula grimaced. “Apparently Glier had/has an issue with claustrophobia. The dark and locked space apparently pushed it… him over the edge. Not excusing it, but that might also account for the body odor. Freshers aren’t large.”
Abdula stared at the overhead for a bit. “As far as continuing, we have another data tech, and Crissman is in the medbox and should recover within a few days.” He nodded at the overhead as he added, “If the AI says we’re good, I would say continue. The mission is more important than a single individual.”
Danny looked at the major and sergeant major. “Oman? Amit?”
Significantly, the major looked at Amit, who answered, “We go. Ship is good, we are good. No need to return and lose days or weeks of inoculation waiting for the courts. Time enough for that afterward.”
Danny nodded, “Dani?”
She looked surprised but said, “Go ahead. Foodstuffs are all good.”
He shrugged. “Go, I don’t see why not.
“Forty segs to transition. We go.”
Danny looked around the table one more time then said, “Alright. We’re going. Qassim, can you check on your folks and make sure they are all secured and strapped in, including Glier?”
“I will. Thank you.”
“Standby for the first transition in five, four, three, two, one.” Danny felt the familiar twinges of the hyper jump and reached down to adjust the sick sack under his harness. He looked over and saw Twitchy in the pilot’s couch, giving him a momentary twinge, knowing he was using his implant with Estrella. Jackmon was sitting at the comm station, but not using his implant, as he was active and looking around. It felt strange to be in the captain’s couch after so long. Gronk was nodding as she monitored the track and Danny automatically looked at the tank to check position.
A div and a half later, Danny came to, pulled the sick sack away from his face and said, “Estrella, are you here?” When he didn’t get an answer, he groaned, “Not again. Fuck me.” He staggered up and made it to the safe, pulled out the data cube and went to the pilot’s couch and inserted it. He looked at Gronk, an interesting shade of green again, all four arms trailing on the deck, and snoring. “AI, position.”
The lugubrious male voice answered, “Calculating.”
He glanced down at Twitchy and saw that he had blood running out of his ears, Oh fuck, not again! He pressed a hand to his carotid artery and didn’t feel anything. He jumped back to his couch and punched the PA. “Medic to the bridge, medic to the bridge, now!” He quickly looked at Jackmon and saw the same telltale blood, What the hell is going on here? They were both… alive when we went into the black hole system. This… Oh shit. What about the GalPat troops?
He keyed the PA again. “Crew report in. I need somebody to check on our GalPat troops.”
Efrot responded, “I will, Captain. Same thing as last transition. Power blinked and lost AI.”
“AI is up in base function. Advise as soon as you reach the VIP quarters.”
The Kepleran loped through the bridge hatch GalTrans twittering, “What have you, Captain?” Danny pointed wordlessly at Twitchy and Jackmon and the Kepleran’s snout twisted into a snarl. “Another? Mr. Crissman also dead. Same bleed.” Danny saw him take out his scanner and run it over first Twitchy and then Jackmon. Curiously, he also reached down and touched both their implants, leaned over each of them and sniffed, then snarled.
Danny asked, “What is it?”
“Hot. Implant ten degrees hotter than ambient. Smell long pig. Implant kill them.”
Danny said, “Oh shit. The… GalPat also has implants, don’t they?”
The Kepleran’s snout rippled again, “Pop not know. But think not. They have… lace in heads.”
Efrot reported, “Captain, both GalPat are alive, but bad heads. Little one says like head on fire.”
He said, “Thank you, I’ll send the medic.” He turned to the Kepleran, “Pop? Is that what you go by?”
“Sure. Pop work. Real name is Mwirtuz!, nobody pronounce correct. I go now. I come back with body bags.”
Thirty segs later, the crew, plus the Oman and Adit, and Quassim Abdula once again sat in the mess. Oman had his head in his hands, eyestalks drooping, and a bulb of something in front of him. Adit leaned back with a hand over his eyes, a bulb of suspiciously colored something in his other hand as he said, “Oh, headache like I have been hit by runaway yak. Still feels like head is on fire.”
Oman added, “Hurt I do. Hurt same.”
Danny looked at the crew. “All of you okay?” He was met with a round of nods and glanced at Abdula. “Quassim? Your beings?”
Abdula took a sip of his bulb before answering dully, “Crissman, Jackmon, Twitchy, and Glier all dead. Pop says their implants apparently cooked their brains. I… I’m not sure what to do now. As far as I know, everyone else survived it. TerSan our sifter had a bit of problem with the grav transitions, but it survived, although Pop had to give them a good bit of medication.”
Abdula smiled. “Our Taurasian symbiote. Their entire goal in life is to find new compounds. They are walking experts on the materials that make up our universe. They can… reconfigure the host to pick up minute particles and for lack of a better term, sense what they are made of.”
Danny nodded. “The big four legged being?”
“Yes, that’s them. Very passive most of the time.”
Oman chittered, “That big, good passive is!” Everyone laughed at that, and the tension in the room broke. “Go, I want,” he added, glancing at Amit, who nodded his concurrence. “Here, we are. Mission we have.”
“Inshallah. We are here now. We cannot change what has happened, we go on. I don’t understand what happened though.”
Efrot’s GalTrans spit, “Is radiation, right bandwidth, heats metal. Implants metal.” He pointed to the two GalPat troops. “Implant not metal. Nano grown.” He continued into an esoteric description of radiation and Abdula finally waved a hand.
“You should talk with Dr. Yoshi Abe. He is our theoretical physicist, he would understand. I am an astrophysicist; I deal with stars.”
Zuckie got up with a groan. “I’m going to take a nap. This shit gets old. Efrot, you’ve got the watch until zero six.”
Gronk nodded. “Sleep good. I do same.”
Adit chuckled, “Not a bad idea. Come, Major.”
Danny blew out a breath. “Well, I guess that means I’ve got the watch. We’re about twelve divs from the mass of ships. I’ll see if the recorder is still alive and see if I can get data from Moose and Squirrel.” Danny looked at Abdula. “Let’s plan on a meeting at eight to see what we have, and you can query your folks on their priorities.”
Everyone got up and Danny walked over to stand in front of the autochef. Daniella came up and asked, “What are you doing?”
“Trying to decide if I want something to eat.”
“I can fix you something,” she said shyly.
He shook his head. “No, go get some rest. I’m good with the autochef, not that I don’t like your cooking.”
She smiled wanly, “I could use some rest. How do you stand all that more than once? I hurt!”
He laughed. “Price of doing business. Hurting is not a reason not to go on. And I like getting paid for work, so I do it. Mining is actually harder on a body than this is, I believe. This is short term, mining just beats you down eight divs at a time, day after day. Good night, or actually good morning. Now go.” He turned back to the autochef and decided on a bulb of coffee as Daniella walked slowly out of the mess.