Thursday, 15 November 2012

Part five: tender


The breakthrough came thanks to Sully being quite so unfit. 
Brook had started her day, once again, by taking a tour past the gym. The ship was under a third g thrust, so she was able to sneak up without the whir of her Trax giving her away. Her anticipation was dashed a little by the fact that Fuller wasn't there, it was just Sully. He was no Fuller in the desirable body side of things, few were, but Brook could make do, especially after so long on board. She reckoned the crew got 10% more attractive for every month they were away from Earth. By that measure, Sully was just over twice as attractive as when they left Earth orbit, putting him on the very edge of desirability. If she squinted. 
Sully was drenched in sweat. Not in the manly glistening body kind of way, more the drowned rat style. 
"Hi Sully" Brook said.
"Hi" pant "Brook" deep breath "how are" another pant "you?" 
"Good thanks. Not often I see you here?" 
"S..sergeant" wheeze, "said I" gulp, "looked" gasp, "tubby"
"Nasty old cow" although casting a glance over Sully's body did indicate a bit of a belly below the sweat drenched t-shirt.
"I know. PHEW" Sully switched off the aRED with a look of delight. He was done. "So you here” deep breath, “for a workout?"
"Nah, not my thing. Doesn't look like it's yours either" Brook smiled. Sully looked as if the gravity was any higher then he wouldn't be able to stay stood up. 
"Y..yeah, I didn't join the marines, get fit" Sully returned the smile, which improved his slightly lopsided face a great deal in Brook's mind. 
While Sully was being sarcastic as to what being in the marines involved, he did have a point. Historically one of the most physically demanding branches of the traditional armed forces, marines had a fearsome reputation.  However, when they went into space, needs changed. Commanding a pack of drones, fighting a physical and electronic battle needed a different set of intellectual abilities.
Meanwhile, the development of the tac-suit put less focus on the physical nature. The tac-suits were fully motorised at the joints, which meant they could move on their own, the marine inside effectively carried along for the ride. Indeed, Sergeant Gumelar, who walked with a limp outside of the suit, was able to move perfectly freely inside. Probably why she felt so comfortable on the battlefield. That and her slightly sociopathic tendencies. 
The tac-suits also greatly enhanced the strength of the marine, so much so that the human element of the physical capabilities of the tac-suit actually hardly mattered. Of course if a growing belly was starting to look like it might prevent the marine from getting inside the tac-suit in the first place, that was an altogether different matter; it was time to hit the gym.  
"So, is, er, Fuller around?" enquired Brook, while Sully ineffectively attempted to mop down some of the sweat with a small towel. 
"Nah, Gumelar's got him inventorying munitions down in the main bay"
"Why does he bother obeying that cantankerous old which if she's booting him out?"
"Call it a misplaced sense of duty. Odd, I know" Sully gave up with the towel, but he still looked unpleasantly sweaty
"Silly boy. So, you want to go get some breakfast?"
"What am I? The Boston Beefcake is stuck on duty so you settle for the runner up prize?" Sully asked with a grin.
"Less runner up, more the booby prize, but watching you work out has made me hungry"
"Well you're gonna have to eat alone I'm afraid. Not sure how she managed it, but the Sergeant has reconfigured the culinary drone to throw protein balls at me if I enter the canteen outside of set meal times"
Brook couldn't help but laugh, although the Sergeant's hacking did bring back to mind that annoyingly persistent spyder mystery, which she had been unable to solve for over a week now. Her laugh had given way to a puzzled frown as Sully attempted to get by her to exit the gym. 
"Excuse me" he said, squeezing past in the tight confines.
"Ewww. Someone needs a shower!" Brook couldn't help but catch a whiff of Sully so close to him. 
"I've been pumping iron woman, what did you expect?"
A thought caught in Brook’s head.
"How come I couldn't smell you before, when you were on the machine? We were pretty close then, given how pokey the gym is" she asked out loud, but as an engineer the answer was already forming in her mind. 
"No circulation in here" it was so obvious even Sully knew the answer. 
"So smells don't move around much. You're a star Sully!" she forgot herself for a second and gave the confused looking marine a kiss on the cheek, before pushing back past him and taking off down the corridor as fast has her short legs would carry her. 
"I just have away with women" Sully mused "Must be the raw animal magnetism" he flexed a scrawny bicep in the gym mirror before heading off in search of a shower. 
Brook was breathing hard before long. She really should actually use the gym one of these days. Yeah, right. She slowed to more of a trot as she headed back to the room that the spyder had been used to get in to.
Air in the crew quarters on long serving intervention ships was a precious commodity. It cost a lot of money to get into space, so ship AI was very frugal in its use. Crew quarters were obviously airtight, and rather than pump vast quantities of oxygen in and out with expensive and heavy pump systems, a cheaper solution was found. Minute amounts were released constantly from a special form of oxygenated plastic sheets in the ceiling (a close cousin to the oxygenated gloop in the tac-suits and crash-vats), while the carbon-dioxide released by those pesky humans was 'caught' via a similar type of sheeting in the floor and walls (carbon dioxide being heavier than air). This meant there were effectively no changes in pressure throughout the forecast, no drafts to move smells around. 
The entry request had been pinged on her way over, the door open when she got there. She hurried inside, down to the end wall. Last time she was here she had smelt fresh polymer twice. Once at the new door and again at the end wall. She had assumed that the smell had travelled across the room from the door, but that was unlikely. She scanned the wall looking for confirmation of her growing suspicion. And here is was. 
A footprint.
The blemish in the polymer that must have been made while it wasn't completely set. She hastily pulled off one of her boots, hopping around unsteadily as she did so. With balance regained she held the boot up against the impression in the wall. Same size, same worn grip at the heel that she got on all her shoes from the way she walked. The mark on the wall had been made when she pushed off in the zero g to leave the room. The second polymer smell had come from the wall, not the door. 
Of course! She'd wondered why the spyder had been used to rip off the door when whoever it was could more easily have simply cleared the door access requests. But the spyder wasn't really for the door, it was for the wall. Brook hastily called up the ship plans again. It wasn't about what was in the room, rather what was behind it. 
Oh fuck
The storage room was at the edge of the crew part of the ship. Behind it was cold vacuum. 
Ideal conditions for the central ship AI to be located. 
Ok, this could be serious. Someone on board was up to something the central AI. But what? The who was a little easier. It had to be Gumelar or Si. Both had the necessary hacking skills, both were seen near the scene of the crime and both were evil enough to be up to something like this. Brook had been right never to like either of them.
But she'd need proof, which would be difficult. Brook didn't have the technical ability to go up against them hacking, so she'd have to be smarter than that. Maybe get into their cabins somehow, have a snoop around? Or maybe just go at them with granddad's crow-bar? Decisions. 
Decisions interrupted by Fuller tearing round the corner at high velocity, nearly taking out Brook coming out of the storeroom. 
"Watch it!" shouted Brook.
"Sorry" the big marine called back, barely breaking stride as he started to head away from her.
"Why the rush? Another errand for Gumelar?" she yelled after him.
"Kinda, we got a tender coming in. For real. My last shot at the big time" 
"Anything exciting?" Brook shouted, the hastily departing Fuller would soon disappear round a corner in the corridor.
"Not sure yet. Some kind of probe has crashed on Europa"

No comments:

Post a Comment