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!"

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