Monday, 3 December 2012



People often say that dramatic moments happen in slow motion, but this one actually did given the lack of gravity. The crew struggled for purchase in the effort to get out of the way of the metallic killing machine as it swung its long limbs into the canteen.  Mason, then Sully opened up with their pneumatic rifles, rounds sparking as they ricocheted off the spyder's slender body. 
Fuller bodily grabbed Brook and threw her at the hatchway, then unclipped himself and pushed toward Sully, grabbing a magazine off his compatriot's belt and feeding it to him as the gun hissed empty. Mason reloaded her own gun, the two armed marine's focussing their fire on the body of the spyder, the drone backing off towards the culinary hatch under the onslaught. 
Si's immediate thought had been for himself, pushing for the hatchway he was the first one there, followed by the tumbling form of Brook. 
"What the hell is going on?" he asked the engineer in alarm
"We've been infiltrated, can you not detect it?" Brook replied as she righted herself, looking back into the canteen. What is Gumelar playing at?she thought to herself, as the Sergeant produced her own hand gun to fire at the spyder. 
"Something's not been right for the last day, but I can't figure out what" it hurt Si to admit. 
With a swish, the spyder flew back into the food waste pipe that it had emerged from, disappearing with a clanking noise echoing through the canteen. 
"What the frick was that dude?!" Lloyd exclaimed from his position cowered under the table. Mason and Sully had drifted over to the open pipe, both aiming their rifles at the jagged gap left by the spyder. 
"Can anyone else get anything from ship AI?" wondered Fuller aloud.
"Nah, it's totally switched off for me replied Sully from the culinary hatch.
"Me too" said Brook from the doorway "Si, please tell me you can work out what the heck is going on?" she turned to look at the drone controller drifting next to her.
"I, er, shit" Si tapped the side of his head, as if the physical motion would jump start his augments back into life.
The sound of the spyder working its way around the canteen through the pipework and wall cavities made everyone feel  exposed to another attack.
"Ok marines, weapons check" Gumelar attempted to assess the situation.
"I'm on my last mag, five rounds in Sarge" Sully answered.
"I got one full mag and a couple of rounds" shouted Mason.
The clanking noise echoed over their heads through the ceiling. Sully tracked it reflexively with his rifle. 
"What's the plan Sarge?" he asked.
"Sulemah, you and marine Fuller head for the armoury, reload then reconvene with the rest of us at the machine shop which will be easier to defend. Mason, take point, I'll watch the prisoners" the Sergeant glared "WELL WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR FUCK-WEASELS? MOVE MOVE MOVE!"
Mason shoved her way past Brook and Si at the doorway and set off down the corridor. Sully and Fuller were next, heading off in the opposite direction, Sully checking the angles ahead while Fuller pushed off keeping an eye on their rear. He winked at Brook. Then Gumelar was at the hatchway, glaring at Si and Brook.
"You heard me. Follow Mason. NOW!"
Si looked wide eyed at the Sergeant, but couldn't hold her intense gaze, so set off after Mason. Brook paused for a few seconds longer, appraising Gumelar with a frown. 
"What you looking at?" the Sergeant snarled.
"Is this your power play?" Brook asked, surprisingly calmly given how stressed she felt inside.
Gumelar lent in close, coffee breath hot in Brook's face.
"You bang your head down in the main-bay?" she asked, eyebrow arched.
"What's the hold up dudes?" Lloyd stuck a head out of the hatchway "Be good not to be around if that spider thingy decides it wants to come back"
Brook and Gumelar locked gazes for a little while longer, tension thick between them. 
"Sarge, I can hear it moving up ahead" Mason yelled from down the corridor.
"Stand by Mason" Gumelar looked away from Brook "We're coming up behind you" she gesticulated at the pirates "ok fuckbags, out you come. No sudden movements"
The journey to the machine shop was slow, the ragtag group making tentative progress, accompanied by the echoing sound of the spyder in the pipework around them. Lloyd had worked his way through to group to drift next to Si. 
"That you dude?" the system analyst enquired, voice low.
"Is what me?" replied Si irritably.
"In the system? You're the hacker, right? I can sense you in the data streams"
"I'm the guy trying to work out what the fuck is going on. And just who the fuck are you?" Si demanded.
"You're ship systems are all screwed up dude"
"And you think I don't know that, hippy?" Si hissed.
"KEEP IT ZIPPED SHIT WEASELS" Gumelar demanded, irritated at the murmuring. Silence lapsed back down, apart from the distant clank clank clank of the spyder overhead. 
They made it to the machine shop, Gumelar directing as they hastily built a barricade - the pirates cut free from their plastic manacles so to be able to help. Workbenches were piled up at the hatchway, metal sheets welded across the obvious entry points from the plumbing system. The air was thick with body heat by the time they were finished, although no-one felt safe. They waited for the other marines to return. Either them or the spyder. 
Brook sat away from the rest of the crew, wedged in a corner at the back of the room, crowbar gripped tightly. She was trying to make sense of this latest attack. The memory of Billington's head lazily floating away from the rest of his body kept interrupting her thought processes, however, as did the metallic scraping noises as the spyder poked at their defences. Brook shook her head irritatedly. Concentrate she urged herself.  The other ship is gone, so it can't be them controlling the spyder. It has to be someone on the inside. Whoever it was had broken into the AI and was now using the ship against them. Trying to get rid of witnesses maybe? Trying to steal the ship? Maybe someone had been paid off by another conglom? 
But who? Brook looked up and around the room. Could it be the pirates? Would fit with what they do for a living, but surely too ambitious for them? And how would they have begun the infiltration before they got on board? The spyder was used on the AI room long before they got anywhere close to Europa and the pirates.
The trainee marines seemed equally unlikely. She couldn't believe it of Sully and Fuller; Sully wasn't clever enough and Fuller was too by the book. He also wouldn't be able to keep it to himself, the big gossip. Sully perhaps, she was certainly vicious enough, but did she have the ability? Brook couldn't see it. 
So she was back to Si or Gumelar. Brook studied Si, who was across the room from her, determined look on his face as eyes jerked round and hands danced. He was in ship systems, but that wasn't really proof of his involvement. In fact, she'd be more suspicious if he wasn't trying to get back in control of the electronic situation. When things had first started to go badly wrong, when the other ship attacked, Si had sounded freaked out. Could that have been acting? He ended up sending Phelp to her doom, with Brook not far behind. Was that a move to take out those able to foil him? But, as he had said to her, breaking through walls and manipulating spyder drones wasn't really his style. Plus, if it was Si messing with ship AI, wouldn't it be easier for him when he was in the crash-vat to simply turn off the o2 to the rest of the ship? Get rid of witnesses that way. Why now mess with the spyder? 
Which left Gumelar.
Hacking was her style, as was drones. She'd been passed over for promotion enough times, relegated to training newbies, so the motive was there. The Sergeant was also now in complete control of the situation, herding the rest of them like sheep into the dead end that was the machine shop. The two vaguely honourable marines had been sent away, taking with them weaponry and combat experience and so making resistance more difficult. Yes, Gumelar had instructed them to build a barricade, but was that to keep the spyder out, or them in? 
Brook shifted uncomfortably. 
The spyder entered the room menacingly. 

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