Saturday, 1 December 2012



On the way to his cabin, Si passed the sick-bay. Calling it a "bay" was an exaggeration, "cupboard" would be more factually correct. Ships didn't carry medical professionals, they weren't considered important enough and so not VFM. Instead, treatment was carried out by an old medical drone that bore more than a passing resemblance to the culinary drone in the canteen - all arms and various unpleasant looking utensils. 
Fuller was stood outside. 
"Good work Si, show those fuckers what for" the big marine slapped him on the back "Ewww, you need a shower" he said, looking at the slither of ooze now coating his hand. 
"Tell me about it. You find Brook?" Si didn't really do guilt, but there was some sort of odd feeling in his stomach connected to the fate of the engineer. 
"She's in there now" Fuller nodded at the closed door to the sick-bay "getting patched up. That first attack ripped her up pretty good, but she's a tough one"
"For sure" Si agreed "You hear how your compatriots got on?"
"Apparently they're on their way back. With guests"
"Uh-huh, the pirates. Gumelar is going mental about that, I was glad to get out the way"
"This is all fucked up" 
"You won't find me arguing with you on that. Which reminds me, in between the cursing, Gumelar said tell anyone I met to get to the canteen for a debrief. Internal coms are still weirdly patchy, so she couldn't send a burst request"
"She just mean you marines though, right?"
"Nah, she said everyone"
"Great. Look, I'm going to go change. I'll see you at the canteen in a bit" Si pushed off towards his cabin.


The canteen was packed. With not many humans on board and those that were normally on differing shift patterns, it struggled to accommodate the number of people now milling around inside it. Especially as those people included the three "pirates", who were clipped into the seats at a table in the corner and watched over by Sully and Mason. The two marines had been given pneumatic rifles from the ship's small armoury. Sully had actually had to blow the dust off his, such was the infrequency of its use. On board ship security was usually handled by a spyder, but with the AI on the blink, they had to use the old fashioned way of guarding prisoners. That extended to the pirates having their wrists bound with some old cable-ties Brook had dug out, the centrally controlled e-cuffs refusing to work. Nor could the pirates be locked in a room somewhere; the ship lacked a brig and door control was also malfunctioning. 
Si, Fuller and the heavily bandaged Brook sat at the other table, while Gumelar and Billington floated near the hatch to the culinary drone, the Sergeant angrily explaining something to the ship liaison, who looked terrified. Conversation was animated amongst the rest of the crew, competing theories as to their attackers and their current situation pontificated upon. 
"Listen up then people" Gumelar spoke up to the rest of the room "The ship AI remains in an error state, while we have taken damage to the ion drive and some non-core systems. We're going to establish some working parties, try and..."
"Why is the AI in an error state?" Brook interrupted. She resented Gumelar trying to take charge of something she saw as falling under engineering's remit, especially as she suspected the gruff Sergeant had something to do with the problems in the first place. 
"Unknown at present. Possibly related to the attack. Now working party A will...."
"It began before the attack" Brook stated, causing the Sergeant to scowl
"We focus on the present issues for now"
"Why? So no-one asks any difficult questions? About maybe just what you're up to?"
"What in the weasel-worrying world are you on about?" Gumelar had drifted a little closer to Brook, fists clenched. Fuller shrank a little in his seat, torn between his loyalty to the Sergeant and friendship with Brook. 
"What I mean is that the AI has been interfered with, by someone here" Brook had stood up and indicated the rest of the room, her feet still in the floor clips to stop her drifting. "Might you know something about that, Sergeant?"
This caught the Sergeant a little off guard, she took a glance at the now shivering Billington. 
"That is classified" Gumelar replied simply.
"Classified my arse, we need to know" without realising, Brook had dropped a bandaged hand to the crowbar at her thigh. Gumelar bared her teeth. 
"And here I was thinking you guys were the professionals" Kel's remark cut through the building tension in the room. 
"No-one asked you" Mason nudged him in the head with the barrel of her gun. 
"Look" Kel pushed the barrel away tentatively  "There are about a hundred unanswered questions, some of which may directly impact on our current chances of surviving all this. Don't know about you lot, but that is quite important to me"
"But how we know which questions are important now and which aren't?" wondered Sully. Mason shot him a foul look for daring to interact with their prisoners. 
"Ask him" Kel pointed at Billington.
"Billi? Why?" Brook had turned towards Kel, hand moving away from the crowbar.
"I, er, understand, er people" Kel's previous confidence was evaporating under scrutiny "I've been, er, watching him, and he knows more than, er, maybe the rest of us"
Mason's backhanded slap caught Kel unexpected, his head snapping around. Chen exploded out of his seat at Mason, but was grabbed by the quick reacting Fuller in a bear hug from behind. Sully pushed in between Mason and the pirate's table, urging calm. 
"Get fucking off me" spat Mason "I'm not having that fucker calling the shots on my ship" she seethed. 
"STAND DOWN MARINE" Gumelar boomed, Mason shrank a little under the ferocity of it, but remained defiant
"Sorry Sarge, but I'm not having this little shit make accusations at Samuel, I, er, mean Billington" 
"DON'T FUCKING TALK BACK MARINE. I GAVE YOU AN ORDER" Gumelar's voice echoed from the bulkheads. 
Mason lowered her gun, drifted back a little from Sully to float at the edge of the cramped room. 
"Yes....sir" she said, with more than a hint of resentment. 
"I have NEVER worked with such a crew of weasel-twatting cock-dolphins. Ok, you chumps want answers, then let's get a few. Never mind that the ship might disintegrate while we stand round jibber-jabbing. Billington, explain to these people what you told me"
Silence as the rest of the room slowly turned to look at the nervous ship liaison. 
"Er, well, the ship has been, well, er. Essentially, we have been, sort of..." Billington stopped talking. But the pause was not a result of his nervousness this time. 
It was because his head was no longer attached to the rest of his body. 
The spyder pushed into the canteen, blood spiralling off its front jaws in the zero g.

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