Friday, 14 December 2012

31 - the end, for now


The crew had once again come together at the canteen. After a brief flurry of exchanged news - spyder dead, ship systems back on line, Gumelar alive but in a coma - they quickly fell into silence. With most ship functions back up most were lost in the data streams, access like a familiar friend that all of them had felt uncomfortable without.
The ship had been put back under a little thrust for their comfort, although the damage to the ion drive in the attack meant one engine had to be kept offline. Brook was managing a small selection of her engineering drones working on the damaged systems. In order to speed up the repair process, Sully and Fuller were using some of their own drones to clear up the damage in the main-bay. Even Mason had offered to help; three plastoids had been created and given brooms, able to get in to the tighter spots. 
Si, meanwhile, had been busy first making sure his purge of the corrupted deep data packets was complete, then investigating the drone from the other ship he'd brought back, although the latter with little success so far. A third task Si had found himself having to do was stopping that hippy prat Lloyd from getting too deep into the local systems. The pirate had proven to be an awkward combination of technically able and curious. Si had considered asking Mason to beat the curiosity out of Lloyd, but if Si was honest with himself, he was quite enjoying the competition. Just as long as he had the upper hand, mind you. 
This left Kel and Chen, neither with access to ship systems. This didn't really matter all that much to Kel. It would have been nice to use his host ship to relay over a message to the loop and see what was happening there, but that could wait. For now he was happy to sip a steaming mug off coffee and silently appraise his current crop of crew mates. Those resident to the ship seemed relieved to be back doing something approximating their normal day jobs, but he suspected that in most cases this was being used as a means to take their minds of having to think too much about the bigger questions that events over the last couple of days had thrown up. 
Kel was more worried about Chen, however. The scientist pirate was just sat staring into his now cold first cup of coffee (Kel was on his third). Since the situation had calmed down, Chen had lapsed back inside his shell, silently brooding. It seemed certain that the brooding was over Nita's death and Milton's betrayal, and Kel was unsure over how Chen was dealing with both events. It would have been nice to talk to him about it, see if he could help Chen cope, but that wasn't an option in the near silent canteen; the only noise being the culinary drone gurgling slightly as it produced another round of hot drinks. 
"So, er, what next?" Kel asked, trying to get some conversation going, getting people thinking about the wider situation. He suspected some difficult decisions were going to be needed. 
"What fucking business of yours is it?" Mason demanded.  
"I, er..." Kel had expected annoyance at his interruption, but Mason's aggression was always unnerving. 
"The scrawny fella' has a point, mind" Fuller drawled, leaning back in his seat. "It looks like we've just about got the ship functional, so then what?"
"Shouldn't we report in to Lanark Horishmo?" Sully suggested "I realise they're gonna be pissed off and all, but some weird shot had gone down". The marine glanced round, his suggestion yielding looks that ranged between nervousness and annoyance. 
"No point" chipped in Si.
"Why?" Sully was surprised. 
"We don't exist"
"We're not a Lanark Horishmo ship anymore. Fuck, we ain’t even registered as a ship anymore" Si was enjoying the focus being on his superior knowledge once again, and was keeping his answers deliberately vague to maintain his position. 
"I am going to slap you if you don't quit it with the mysterious answers" Fuller's point made Si promptly reappraise his approach. 
"Ok, it's technical, but essentially it had something to do with that shadow process I wiped out of the AI. I'm not sure how yet, but when it activated, we were wiped from LH records"
"Because they maybe thought that other ship had destroyed us? It was a close shave" Sully said. 
"Nah, we weren't registered as lost in battle or to technical failure, or anything like that. We were simply wiped. No record of operations left behind. Shit, there isn't even any record of this ship’s construction any more" Si explained. 
"Why? How?" Sully, not for the first time, was baffled. 
"It's difficult to say" Si shook his head, then saw Fuller scowling at him "No, really, I'm not stringing you along. There's only so much I can work out from this end. The shadow AI received a burst transmission not long after we got the probe recovery tender. After that everything turned to shit; we got wiped, the other ship attacks, then the spyder kicks off"
"Where was the transmission from?" Chen had been stony silent up to now. Kel had assumed he was still deep in his own thoughts, not listening to the conversation going on around him, but now he saw that wasn't true. The scientist in Chen wanted answers.
"You think someone is going to upload a shadow AI then telegraph where they're commanding it from?" Si replied sarcastically. 
"I thought you were supposed to be good" Chen not so much sounded authoritative, more the tone of his voice was so straight forward that it engendered compliance.
"Best I can say is inner planets. The signal got bounced all over the solar system on the way here, that kind of operation needs big computing power. So either the Mars shipyards or Earth. Moon at a push"
"Earth" Lloyd wasn't even looking at the rest of the crew, instead he was looking suspiciously at the small paper tube that the culinary drone had dropped in front of him. It was difficult to assemble something vaguely narcotic out of a conglom ship's herb and spice stores, but Lloyd was up for a challenge. Ignoring the stares from around the small canteen, he tentatively pressed one end of the makeshift roll-up against his heat pad while sucking on the other. With a cough and a splutter a cloud of a grey-blue smoke erupted from his mouth and nose. "Too much cayenne" he gasped.
"What the fuck you say?" demanded Si.
"Too much cayenne, gets in the way of the roasted elf bark" Lloyd's eyes were now watering. 
"Before that. You said Earth" Sully shook his head as he said this, part in frustration and part trying to get out of the foul smelling smoke cloud. 
"What? Oh yes, Earth. The signal came from Earth" Lloyd answered, stubbing out his failed experiment while simultaneously transmitting his next recipe to the drone. 
"How the fuck do you know that? You're just guessing" Si was annoyed at being shown up by this hippy-come-rival. 
"Cos it's the same deep lurking protocol that was on the probe" Lloyd picked up the hand terminal they'd used on the probe; the data that ended up being their ticket back to the conglom ship. "I know a thing or two about re-routing signals about the place and I'm telling you dude, this one came from Earth"
"But why?" asked an exasperated Brook "You can do all this fancy electronic wizardry as much as you want, but it still doesn't explain why someone, somewhere tried to kill us on more than one occasion". 
"Must be something to do with the probe, that's when things started going weird" Kel surmised. 
"The aliens, dude" the culinary drone dropped off Lloyd's next creation, but he wasn't quick enough to stop Sully make a grab for it, screw it up and throw it back towards the culinary hatch. "Not cool dude" Lloyd complained. 
"So let's break it down" Sully said, ignoring Lloyd's protests "Someone back on Earth took exception to both the probe and us, but we don't know who, why or where exactly they are?" 
"Exactly" said Brook, "we're still no closer to working out what the heck is going on"
"Then we go find out" Chen's statement was again simple, but it resonated around the people in the canteen and a contemplative silence fell upon them once again. 
"How?" said Fuller after a little while "Whoever it is have tried to wipe us out once, will sure as hell try again if we rock up in Earth orbit. Plus they've shown themselves to have access to some pretty serious tech"
"I know some people back on Earth in the...." Chen paused as he thought of the correct term "...informal economy. We go in via them, stay low key"  
"I don't know" Sully scratched his temple uncertainly "All sounds a bit farfetched to me"
"Yeah" grumbled Lloyd, getting up to wander towards the culinary hatch "It's not like we've got a mystery to solve" he nodded at the rest of the crew "or revenge to be sought" here a nod at Chen "All while located on a kick ass intervention ship bristling with military tech running totally off-grid and not an authority figure in sight" he turned back around to the crew after picking up the crumpled roll-up. 
"This could almost be fun"

Thanks for anyone getting this far! I've gone way over my initial plan and have in many ways bitten off a bit more than I can chew. However, it's been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to getting back to the story in 2013. Until than, have a great Festive period and see you in the new year. 
The spyder says Merry Christmas....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012



Brook quickly glanced round at Si and Sully to see if they were seeing what she was. Given their slack jaws and wide eyes she figured that they were. Despite Fuller's almost jovial cry, it was clear that he wasn't having the best time. Rather than looking like he was some macho space cowboy riding the bucking bronco, instead he was holding on for dear life to the spyder's cylindrical body, while the drone poked and swiped at him with its long legs while also trying to throw him off, or at least work him around to either of the sets of jaws. 
Sully gave a little shake of the head, but he also had a grim smile at seeing his comrade, and friend. Raising his gun to eye level, he took aim as the spyder moved towards them, Fuller in tow. It was hard to get a clear target given how much the spyder was jerking and spinning, especially given that Sully wasn't able to use his targeting augments with the AI messed up - currently one augment was ominously telling him that the most effective aiming solution came from pointing the gun right at Si's head. Sully instead closed one eye and prepared to shoot the old fashioned way. Looking down the sight of the rifle, he took aim, held steady for a couple of heart beats, then fired. 
He shot Fuller clean in the arse. 
"FUCK" cursed Sully and Fuller simultaneously. The shot had caused Fuller to slip from the back of the spyder, the drone quickly turning round and upright to grab him in the body crushing set of door-opening jaws. However, this gave Sully a clearer shot, who fired a quick burst of three armour piercing rounds into the spyder. Rather than ricochet like the bullets had done in the canteen and machine-shop, these thumped into the spyder, two putting large dents into its armoured flanks, but the third punching through leaving a small hole. 
Fuller forgotten, the spyder turned and rushed at Sully. The marine fired another volley, but the front of the spyder was its most armoured part, the bullets leaving dents but no permanent damage. Sully pushed off the fire suppression protrusion, flying backwards down the corridor with the spyder in pursuit. The drone had learnt to target its attackers first; previously it had gone after Billington or Si with a single minded determination, which had given the marines time to concentrate fire upon it. Now it had worked out the immediate threats, it chased them down. 
Sully's gap to the chasing spyder was rapidly closing, the drone much more affective at travelling in zero g. Whereas Sully was a mess of limbs struggling to propel himself any faster, the spyder effortlessly gained speed using its long limbs to both push and pull itself along. Sully risked a quick glance ahead of him, there was a junction coming up with another corridor, if he could just get there and swing himself around and out of the way, hopefully the faster travelling spyder would carry on past; give him a few vital seconds to reload his almost empty weapon. 
The junction was almost upon them, Sully fired a couple more shots then switched the now empty rifle into his left hand, ready to use his right to grab the Trax rail at the junction and swing himself about and down the other corridor. Nearly there, come on! he urged himself; the spyder only a few metres behind, front jaws gaping. With a thud and a crack of pain in his wrist, he slammed into the junction and swung 90 degrees, pushing off the far wall with his legs to take off down the next corridor. As he'd hoped, the spyder's momentum carried it past him in a silvery-grey blur. For a split second hope bloomed. 
Then a slender spyder limb wrapped itself around his trailing right leg. 
Sully was wrenched back into the main corridor, screaming just a little bit. The spyder dragged him in towards the front jaws, Sully kicking ineffectively. Just as he thought he was about to lose a leg, Sully realised that the front jaws weren't working properly, one looked slightly bent, not moving freely. However, this realisation only gave him an extra couple of seconds in one piece; the spyder dragged him towards the large door opening jaws at the centre of its body. He tried to extract some ammunition from his belt. Grabbing a fresh magazine, Sully brought the rifle in front of him, trying to slam the new clip home only to have it knocked out of his hands by a flailing arm of the spyder, the weapon spinning out of his reach and down the corridor behind them. 
The large metal jaw clamped shut then open in front of him, as if relishing the meal it was about to receive. Sully swore, words tumbling out of his mouth in a torrent of vulgarity. But then he remembered, a lump pressed in the small of his back; Fuller's shot-gun. Frantically he tried to claw at it, left hand brushing against, then seizing the Fulcrum-Buster. He swung it round, spyder jaws gaping. He didn't have time to aim, not even time enough to grip it in both hands as he swung the barrel round to the spyder's flank. 
"This is for Billington" Sully growled as he pulled the trigger. 
It was if the side of the spyder disintegrated, the armour pealing away, innards rupturing and fragmenting in front of Sully's eyes in a burst of light and sound. If only he was able to appreciate it. Instead to force of the single-handed recoil pinging his shoulder out of joint like a chestnut being cracked at Christmas, the rest of his body spun across the corridor and into the far wall, his head banging on the looming bulkhead.
For a few moments both Sully and the spyder drifted lifelessly in the dimly lit corridor. The few moments it took Brook and Fuller to catch up with them, both breathing hard after their frantic pursuit. It was Fuller that arrived first, grabbing Sully and attempting to patch into is vital signs, but met with static. Instead, the first sign he got of Sully's state was a loud rasping cough, followed by a string of obscenities. 
"Sul? Sul? You ok?" the big marine hurriedly enquired.
"MY ARM! FUCK, IT HURTS" Sully cradled his left arm, the shot-gun released, slowly drifting in front of him. 
Fuller hastily patted his compatriot's vac-suited arm down, it not taking him long to find the disjointed lump that currently passed for Sully's shoulder. 
"Ok Sul, I got it. This is going to hurt maybe a little bit" Fuller had wrapped an arm under the shoulder joint, another levered over the top. Spinning a few degrees in the zero g, Fuller put the point of a knee into the middle of Sully's back. "Ok, on three. One, two" with a wrench, Fuller pulled back Sully's arm while pressing into his back; there was an audible crack, followed by an audible cry from Sully. 
"HOLLY FUCKING SHIT BALLS, YOU SAID THREE!!" Sully yelled "WHY THE HELL DID YOU GO ON TWO YOU BIG FAT MANIAC?!" he hugged his arm tight, rolling over in the zero g, spinning like a small sweary asteroid. 
"You'll live, tough guy" Fuller replied sardonically "It's a small price to pay for shooting me in the ass" he rubbed his backside absent-mindedly. 
Brook almost offered to do it for him, but the moment didn't quite seem right. 
"You both ok?" she asked, casting an eye over the lifeless spyder as she spoke. 
"We'll live. Maybe spend a bit more time on the firing range though, eh Sul? Fuller used a large booted foot to arrest Sully's pained spin. 
"I got that spyder bastard when it mattered though, didn't I?" Sully still held his arm, bent double in front of the other two.
"Couldn't miss. Although firing a Fulcrum-Buster one-handed was just showing off if you ask me" Fuller smirked. 
"I figured that maybe you needed a few pointers on firing it, save you leaving it behind in the corridor again" said Sully, a smile on his face despite the acid tone to his reply.
"I got blind-sided, not my fault" Fuller mirrored the smile, relief starting to filter through to the marines' demeanour. 
"So what did happen to you?" asked Brook, still picturing those blood droplets outside the machine shop. 
"It came out directly above me, pulled me up into the pipework. Only reason it didn't tear me to pieces was that it front jaw wasn't working properly" Fuller explained.
"Yeah, I noticed that too. Must have been damaged in the previous attacks" Sully flexed his left hand experimentally, grimacing as he did so.
"So it tries to drag me towards its main jaws" Fuller continued, "but it can't quite manoeuvre me round in confines of the pipework. By the time it emerges into the corridor system I'm grabbed onto its back with no plans of letting go. Like a pissed off limpet. Was a hell of a ride, until you shot me in the ass"
"Well it worked out in the end didn't it? And you're not the only one hurting, big guy" Sully bristled.
"I guess. So what is the plan now then?" 
"We should go check how bad Si shat his vac-suit when the spyder came back, but then we're gonna try and reset the AI core" Sully explained.
"Sounds technical" Fuller wasn't a fan of technical. 
"It does involve destroying a wall" Brook pointed out. 
"In which case, count me in!" 
"Hnnn, I'm thinking maybe you should go get your, er, war wound checked out. Maybe also see how Gumelar is getting on?" Sully talked sense, but the mention of the Sergeant brought the post-spyder good mood back down. 
"Ok" said Fuller after a brief pause "You want to keep the Fulcrum-Buster, or can I have it back?" 
"I'd be happy never to see that contraption ever again. I swear it nearly took my arm off"
"That's what happens when you try to play the action hero Sul, reality bites back" Fuller grabbed the still drifting shot-gun with a snigger, then manoeuvred himself around the remains of the spyder and pushed off down the corridor. 
"Back to the task at hand then" muttered Sully, heading off back towards the store room, Brook following behind him, still quiet after the mention of Gumelar. 
They found Si still crouched in a corner near to the storeroom, the drone controller sheepishly brushing himself down as he emerged from his cowering spot. 
"Is it gone?" Si asked, glancing down the corridor. 
"Yeah" answered Sully, moving to open the door "Time for you to step up to the plate now" the marine briefly made eye contact with Si, as if trying to appraise if the slightly shaking man in front of him was up to the task, before pulling himself through the hatch. Brook quickly followed, but Si waited a heartbeat or two; a heart beating fast and hard enough that he could feel it thudding against his ribcage.  
"We'll need to seal the door shut" said Brook inside the store room "When we open up the wall, we don't want the vacuum sucking up the crew quarters". It was obvious stuff, but Sully's now brooding demeanour was unsettling her. 
"Might be hard with the door control on the fritz" Sully mused.
"I can sort it" said Si entering the room, although the usual cocky tone to his voice was missing "Door AI is at a pretty low level, I can get past the corruption there. Just not much deeper" 
"Ok, go to it" Sully instructed, before turning to Brook "You got a plan to take down the wall, engineer?" 
The formal address caught Brook a little off guard, delaying her response which only succeeded in Sully's frown deepening behind the vac-suit face plate. 
"I, er, have still got my, er crowbar?" she pulled it free from the clasp on her suit's waist. 
"Old school, but should work" Sully nodded slowly "We got a seal yet Si?" he called over a shoulder. 
"Just a couple more seconds, ah....there we go" the door squeaked a little as the hatch was pushed up tight against the rubber seals around the edges, trapped air hissing out before promptly stopping as the seal held.
"Ok, all yours" Sully looked at Brook and beckoned at the end wall. 
"Er, you want me to do it?" 
"Uh-huh, my shoulder's fucked and I'd hazard a guess that you're stronger than Si" Sully folded his arms, wincing slightly as his arm flexed. 
Si looked as if he might argue the point, but thought better of it as he realised the reward for winning that particular debate would be the exertion of battering the wall into submission. Instead he drifted silently as Brook moved towards the wall, hefting the crowbar. 
After three heavy blows Brook didn't think it was going to work, the wall stood firm while her arms already ached. But after the fourth strike a small notch in the wall appeared, a chip of polymer floating away. This didn't stop her arms hurting, but it did give he a renewed belief that she could get the job done. More blows rained against the wall, sweat starting to drip down her forehead and back. 
The notch turned into a delve, the delve into a crack and eventually the crack into a hole. The breach of the wall caused the air remaining in the storeroom to rush out through the hole, Brook's vac-suit flapped in the wind. The hole gave her purchase to fit the curved end of the crowbar in, to start levering against the wall rather than striking it. The gush of air running past was distracting at first but eventually slackened off as the air in the room disappeared into the vacuum. 
There was no sound in the room now, but Brook imagined that there would have been a satisfying clunk when a door-sized chunk of wall she'd been levering against cracked then snapped off. She pushed it out of the way to get a better view of what she had uncovered. A small box with a collection of wires sticking out. Is that it? Brook wondered. However, she didn't even have time to make the remark out loud before Si was at her side, pushing her out of the way. 
"The core" he said, with more than a hint of awe in his voice. Si lent into the hole, following some of the wires that came out of the box, quickly finding the one he was looking for. Pulling the wire in question, he dragged the connected hand-terminal into the storeroom. "So let's see what we have here" he said, pushing a few of the rubberised buttons on the terminal and staring intently at the display. 
After a few seconds of button pushing and frowning, Si rummaged about in the pack at his hip of his vac-suit and pulled free a blue and red striped wire, connecting one end to the terminal and the other to a connector at the base of his helmet. 
"Need a physical connection" he said in explanation to the puzzled looks of Brook and Sully who were floating nearby. 
"Be careful" Brook urged, wary of what might be contained in the terminal or core. 
"I know what I'm doing, just give me a second's piece" some of that conceited swagger was coming back into Si's voice as he got into a job he felt comfortable with. However, that swagger was quickly forgotten as he exclaimed "WOAH!" just a couple of moments later. 
"What is it?" asked Sully in alarm, rifle pulled round and aimed at the gap in the wall. 
"This is amazing”. Si replied in dreamy wonder. “Totally fucked up, but amazing all the same"

Thursday, 6 December 2012



"WHAT?!" said about three people at once, the attention now firmly on Mason.
"So you've been controlling the spyder?" Brook was baffled.
"Yes, well no, not now" Mason answered, an unsure tone to her voice.
"What the fuck Mason?" Sully demand, turning towards her "Did you kill Billington?" without realising it, Sully had raised his gun. 
"NO!" cried Mason, tears at the corners of her eyes. "I wouldn't hurt Samuel, never. Something went wrong"
"Then start explaining" Sully demanded. 
"It's complicated. Samuel and I, we, er, well, were, er..."
"You were an item?!" Brook asked, flabbergasted and wide eyed. Despite the long months travelling together, Brook realised that she didn’t know some of the crew at all. It is easy to dismiss people that you have little in common with.
"People underestimate him. Underestimated" Mason's head dropped, she sniffed "He wanted to show his family back on Earth what he could do, if they just gave him a fair chance"
"Can we get past the soap opera bit and onto the killer spyder stuff please" Sully shook his head as he said this. 
"We wanted to build a nest egg, set out on our own" explained Mason "So he had the idea of tapping into the ship AI, give me an advantage in the tendering".
"That's how you knew how many pirates were down on Europa!" exclaimed Sully, thinking back to the last tender when Mason had mysteriously known more than he and Fuller about what they were up against. 
"Uh-huh. Samuel got a, er, sort of device, but we had to hard-wire it into the AI core"
"It look like this?" Chen produced the hand terminal that they'd used to access the conglom AI ships. And the probe. 
"Yeah" Mason said looking over at him.
"So you used the spyder to break through to the AI?" but Brook already knew the answer.
"Yes. But then things started to go wrong."
"How?" Sully had lowered his gun, but still looked a mixture of angry and confused. 
"Through Samuel's direct link to the AI core, he started to notice that there were other processes hidden deep inside"
"What sort of processes?" asked Si, his voice a little croaky after his previous scream. 
"Samuel was trying to work it out, he thought he was close. But then the other ship attacked."
"So you had nothing to do with that?" said Sully. Mason just shook her head in reply. 
"But that is why the spyder went after Billington first, before going for Si" reasoned Brook. "Billington was closest to working out what was happening thanks to his direct link" the whole messed up situation was starting to make at least a little more sense to her. However, this understanding brought with it the dawning realisation that she'd possibly just killed the Sergeant based on flawed reasoning. Her shoulders slumped and head lowered. 
"It also means that we still don't know who or what is attacking us. And that the spyder is still on the loose" Sully glanced around the room, spied Kel and Lloyd loitering at the side. "WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU TWO STILL HERE?! Get the Sergeant to the med-bay, NOW. Fuller will go with you" 
Lloyd actually attempted a salute in his fear of the angry marine, then quickly turned round to help escort Gumelar through the hatchway. Sully took a hand off his gun to run it through his hair in exasperation. Mason and Brook were both staring at the floor brooding, both trying to come to terms with what was going on. Si still just looked scared, eyes wide, but still - he'd given up trying to access the AI for fear of enraging the spyder again. 
"You know how to use a pistol?" Sully addressed Chen.
"Then take this" Sully passed over the small firearm he'd taken from the folds of Gumelar's uniform.
"You're giving the pirate a weapon? We can't trust them" Mason declared.
"Right now I don't think I can trust you either Mason, but we're going to all need to work together to get through this shit-storm"
"So, er, what's the plan?" asked Brook tentatively.
"We go to where the AI core was breached, then Si uses the hard-wire link to shut the spyder down and take control of the AI. Wipe it if need be"
"Me? Why? This is not under my remit" Si was now shaking.
"Lloyd could do it" replied Chen calmly. 
"What? That hippy? No way" replied Si quickly. Chen's offer had pricked the drone controllers ego.
"Then you'll do it?" interjected Sully, eyebrow raised. 
"Er, sure, I guess" Si realised he'd been cornered and accepted defeat. 
"Excellent" concluded Sully. Everything was fucked up, but he liked at least having a plan to deal with it. 
"Er, dudes?" Lloyds voice wafted over from the gap in the hatchway.
"ARE YOU STILL FUCKING HERE?" demanded Sully angrily, the satisfaction of having a plan quickly evaporating. 
"You know that Fuller dude that was meant to take us to the med-bay?" Lloyd's voice was a little shaky "He's sort of not here anymore"
"What? FULLER?" Sully shouted, com-links still down for everyone, before he pushed towards the hatch. On making it through the gap he could see that Lloyd was right. Other than the two nervous looking pirates and still unconscious body of Gumelar, the corridor was empty. 
Brook was next out of the machine-room, head turning quickly to look up and down the corridor "Where'd he go?" she asked meekly. 
"Shit. FULLER? Fuck. FULLER?" Sully drifted a little way down from the machine-shop, then arrested his movement buy grabbing onto a ceiling strut. 
"Any sign?" called Brook, but Sully ignored her, instead reaching into the mess of pipework above him, a glint catching his eye. "What is it?" Brook wasn't happy with the lack of response, but Sully remained silent. Instead he turned back to her. 
Holding Fuller's shotgun. 
"No" was all Brook could say as a tear drifted away from her eye, much like the blood drop drifting away from the shotgun. 
"Shit man, that big dude got snatched" the tremble was back in Lloyd's voice. 
"It's learning" Chen said matter of factly as he popped through the hatchway. "These fully automated drones are able to tactically adapt; it learnt that attacking us head on wasn't working, that we could fight it off" 
"So it targeted the guy standing guard on his own" stated Sully, realisation dawning "While we chit-chatted in the machine room. FUCK!" he kicked the wall, the force of the movement pushing him back across the corridor. "Gumelar's most basic lesson, get your mind in the present or get killed. Only I got Fuller killed" his voice trailed off. Silence fell upon them.
"So what is the p....present p...p...plan?" Kel spoke up, voice cracking.
"What?" snapped Sully.
"You said we n...need to st...stay in the present. But now your th...thinking about what m...ight or might not have gone wrong. You've forgotten y...your Sergeant's advice again. Sorry" the last word added as an afterthought given that Sully was looking like he wanted to shoot him. 
"The kid's right" said Chen "Your plan before sounded good, has anything changed to alter that?"
"No, shit, give me a moment" Sully briefly let go of his weapons to rub his face, they drifted in front of him before he grabbed them back. "Ok, right. MASON, get out here"
"Don't fucking yell at me Sul, you ain't the Sarge" Mason emerged from the machine-shop, face hard-set. 
"No, I ain't, that's why we gotta get the Sarge safe. You lead the pirates to the med-bay with Gumelar" he threw a couple of magazines at her. 
"So I gotta babysit these cretins?" she nodded at Kel and Lloyd.
"This guy, Chen is it?" Sully pointed at the bearded pirate, Chen nodded. "He looks like he knows his way around a hostile situation, the pair of you play nice and the Sarge stays safe, alright?"
"Ok" Mason gave a resigned nod, "but this is just to get Gumelar treatment, all bets are off after that"
"Sure. Brook, Si, you're with me, we head to the AI core. SI? SI?" Sully realised that Si was the last person in the machine-shop, panic briefly flaring, before the sheepish looking drone controller emerged from the hatchway. Sully sighed in relief, mentally vowing not to leave anyone on their own again. "Ok, let's go"
For a short while the group moved together, Sully leading the way with Chen, with Mason covering the rear and the rest bunched in the middle. However, it wasn't long before they reached a t-junction where it was time to split up. It was a weird moment, no one really knowing if they'd see each other again, and - given the recent dramas - whether they actually cared that they might not see some of the others again. Mason said goodbye to Brook with a raised finger, for example. 
Nevertheless, after the awkward separation, Brook felt exposed, as if the sounds the three in her group made echoed more than before. She hugged her recovered crowbar a little more tightly, attempting to channel some of the gruff determination she had always associated with her granddad. 
"You think maybe that, er, one of us should have the, er shotgun?" asked Si of Sully after they'd progressed a little way "For, er, extra protection"
"Either of you ever fired a gun before?" Sully replied, without looking back to Brook and Si behind him. 
"Not exactly directly fired a, er, hand weapon" said Si.
"No" said Brook more succinctly.
"Then its safest with me. Last thing I need if the spyder comes back is one of you two shooting me in the arse" 
Brook wondered if that was the real reason, or if she'd lost Sully's trust permanently after her attack on Gumelar. That prospect made her even sadder than she already was. 
"What do you think the spyder did to Fuller?" asked Si, breaking Brook's depressed musing, but not making things any better. 
"Not cool to talk about that right now" said Sully stiffly, like he was trying hard not to think about it too. 
"We need to get some vac suits" Brook said suddenly, almost relieved to have a topic of conversation not connected to Fuller or Phelp or Gumelar or Billington or get a fucking grip, girl.
"Eh?" said Si.
"It's vacuum behind the wall where the AI is, that's another reason Mason used the spyder, save her having to check out a vac suit" Brook explained.
"The drone control room is on the way, we'll stop off there" Sully answered simply, mind still fully on the task at hand. 
They changed quickly, taking it in turns to aim a gun at the air vent located above the vac-suits that looked like the obvious entry point for the spyder. However, they'd been no sign, or sound, from the drone since they'd left the machine-room. Tension built. 
"Is it, er, going to come after me again?" Si broadcast through his suit's short range communicator - the basic tech was still working.
"I would imagine it will try" Sully replied "So you stay close"
"For sure" Si wasn't planning on wandering off anywhere, that was for sure. 
Brook directed them to the correct store room with still no sign of the spyder. Maybe it's too busy eating Fuller but Si kept that morbid, not to mention technically impossible, thought to himself. 
"Ok, the door's open" said Sully after brief check; the door AI must have gone down when the rest of the ship systems went wrong "Brook, you come pull it open while I go in and check it out"
"Sure" although Brook didn't feel sure at all. Nevertheless, she choked down the fear and moved to the door. Then froze. 
A dull clanking sound echoed about them. 
Sully attempted to cover about twenty different angles all at once, the gun snapping round form one to the other in quick succession while he tried to work out where the noise was coming from. Si, meanwhile, cowered down next to a bulkhead, as if he thought he could merge into the carbonite and disappear. 
The noise was getting closer, appearing to come from down the corridor in front of them. Sully steadied himself against part of the fire suppression equipment that protruded from the ceiling, aimed down the sight of his rifle. Ready for the showdown. 
Brook frowned from her position crouched down by the door. The noise from the spyder's approach didn't quite sound right. There was something else. Sully hadn't appeared to notice the discrepancy, but the marine had been moaning about his ears ever since he got back from Europa. It was getting closer, the other sound almost starting to sound familiar, human maybe, but not anything she could understand. Brook was about to say something, but then the spyder emerged from behind a corner about 25 metres away from them. 
The spyder being ridden by Fuller.
             The spyder being ridden by Fuller yelling what now sounded remarkably like "Yee-Haa!"