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Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 6
By
rolandlytle

Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 6

Up the proverbial polluted tributary devoid of the implementation for downstream navigation.

Romero must have noticed my nervousness, because he said, “Don’t worry ensign, you’ll do fine.”

I asked, “Aren’t you going to bolster my bravery with some fictional Klingonese battle cry like ‘Today is a good day to die!’then give an evil laugh or something?”

He shook his head and replied, “No sir, I’m not. The only Klingon I know of are on my hairy ass. In the deep black, there is only life and death, and death comes quick when it finds you. Please don’t fill your pants. That’s embarrassing when they collect the remains.”

He wasn’t very reassuring. I contacted the bridge and reported manned and ready. I continued to review the procedures for arming and firing the rockets as we waited.

After five minutes, the Captain announced on the ship-wide intercom, “Attention all hands, this is the Captain speaking. We are going to disengage the PNP drive and attempt to contact the Earth Alliance Force sector command. We will then resume FTL. I intend to accelerate to maximum speed so be prepared for an uncomfortable ride. If the bandit does appear, remember they don’t take prisoners, but we have a little surprise arranged for them. Trust your training and your shipmates and we will get through this together. Standby to disengage the drive in thirty seconds.”

I engaged my eyepad to control the rocket launcher and waited.

Thirty seconds doesn’t sound like much, but when your adrenalin is going and your heart pounding, it seems like an eternity. I thought of all the things that could go wrong. Every crinkle that could happen and every frakup I could make went through my head.

I took a deep refreshing breath and remembered the unrelenting hours of preparations. The drills and exercises we did regularly. The endless tedium of repeatedly practicing tasks and skills that you believed you would never need. Now I needed them.

I have been involved in many shipboard emergencies throughout the years. I have handled the pressure. I have saved shipmates lives at the risk of my own. I have never crumbled under the pressure. I have and I will do it now!

We felt the ship exit FTL. I pulled up the bridge control monitors on my eyepad to observe what was happening. The chief tethered his suit to one side of the exterior hatch. I had secured my suit to attachment points near the airlock.

On my eyepad, I could see that they were forming a micro-wormhole aft of the ship. The Captain had the BharatBenz at full reverse thrust. When we reached standard cruising speed of three-hundred KPS, the shaking would begin and worsen as our speed increased. The old girl wasn’t made for this type of abuse.

Then I saw it. Our radar picked up a contact approaching at more than a dozen times the speed of light. That was a lot faster than I had believed possible. Instead of the two and a half minutes I had anticipated, we had less than two minutes before they reached us. It takes at least two minutes to establish contact through a wormhole. Frak!

I heard the Captain call through the earpiece in my suit, “You’re up. Ensign, cover us and chief light that bastard up.”

The Captain had decided to stay and fight it out, which was the best choice. At their speed, they could catch us in hours instead of days. We had to hope for a lucky shot. I don’t believe we could destroy the bandit with one missile and the popguns this tub carried, but a lucky hit could disable their PNP drive, then if we survived long enough we could make a run for it.

The announcement blared over the intercom, “All hands, prepare for combat conditions.”

The lights went out in the compartment and the red emergency lighting came on. I heard and felt the compartment depressurizing. The exterior hatchway disengaged from the bulkhead with a visible shake and began sliding upward.

I could feel the ship beginning to shake as the hatch slid into place and the boom began extending outboard. It suddenly stopped only halfway out. Romero tried to extend the boom manually, but it was fraking crinkled and wasn’t moving any further.

I toggled my microphone, “Captain, the boom is only extended halfway.”

“You will have make due.” She replied. “It won’t be locked in place, so when you fire, you must launch all three simultaneously. Watch out for the boom kicking back into the compartment. The bandit will be here in twenty seconds. Good hunting.”

Romero and I both acknowledged her and stood ready. Romero turned towards me and I could see this big turd-chewing grin spread across his face through the faceplate on his helmet as he hefted the missile launcher onto his shoulder.

He said, “It’s time to rip off their head and piss down their throat hole. I’m going to blow those bloody bitches to hell!”

“I’d buy that for a dollar. Frak them up.”

That is when the status display activated. It registered a contact at approximately five-hundred kilometers. The silhouette was considerably smaller than I had expected. It had no room for bulk cargo equivalent to what we carried. The spacecraft’s aspect was broadside, but I could detect it beginning to turn towards us.

I was listening to the chatter on the bridge and I didn’t like what I was hearing.

Captain Leopard, “Engineering, increase inertial field to maximum. Helmsman, turn us starboard until the bandit is dead astern then go to flank speed. Propulsion, relay to Richards that after we come about she’d better kick that mule.”

All stations confirmed their orders.

Ensign Krackow, operations, “Captain, optical has a picture of the bandit. Unknown configuration. They’re routing the visual to the screen and to your station, sir.”

CES DeMarco, communications, “Sir, the drive signature caused a huge spike in quantum distortion, considerably more than expected. It’s going to take a minimum of three or maybe four minutes to stabilize the micro-wormhole.”

Captain, “We don’t have three minutes chief. You need to get it done.”

Chief DeMarco, “Aye Captain I’ll try to push the signal broad spectrum into the wormhole as it begins to settle down, but that’s still going to take two minutes, sir.”

Captain, “We’ll try to buy you the time chief. Continue forming the wormhole aft and we’ll pass it along our port side. Helm, after passing the wormhole, keep it between us and the bandit.”

ABS Lee, navigation/helmsman, “Aye Captain. The bandit is astern and we are at flank, sir.”

Lt. Harvey, XO, “Captain, look at the photo, It doesn’t have towing points for cargo modules. It’s too small! What the frak is going on. It doesn’t make sense, sir.”

There is a shutter felt throughout the ship and an alarm signal sounded.

ABS Rajoy, engineering, “Sir, the secondary reactor is down. They are bringing all five emergency micro-piles online to compensate. Power to the deflector emitter is down fifteen percent and I can’t reinforce the inertial field, sir.”

Ens. Krackow, “Sir, the bandit is at four-hundred kilometers and closing fast, they should intercept us in forty seconds.”

Lt. Harvey, “Captain, this can’t be a bandit. Could this be an advanced prototype out here in the black playing games?”

The Captain called us, “Thornton, be ready they should open fire after passing three-hundred kilometers. You will only have about five seconds to fire. Romero, hold off as long as you can, but don’t let it chew us up too much.”

Ens. Krackow, “The turrets have opened fire Captain, the gunny reports heavy deflection of ordinance.”

The ship was now noticeably to shaking as the BharatBenz was pushing beyond its normal speeds.

Ens. Krackow, “Three-hundred kilometers and closing. We’re passing the forming wormhole, Captain.”

My status display indicated missile fire, but only two; they were both moving faster than anticipated, one off our port and the other off our starboard.

I initiated targeting lock, two on the missile to our starboard.

As the rockets gained a target lock-on, I called out to Romero, “Fire in the hole.” Waited one second and fired.

The three rockets jettisoned out the hatchway and then their hyper-speed engines kicked in and they seemed to disappear. The boom flew back into the compartment, just missing Romero. It slammed into its mounting and tore loose from the deck plating. It smashed through several crates and shot into the bulkhead tearing a four-meter gash in the metal wall. A huge section of the decking was torn up; leaving mangled metal plating coming from the deck like some strange sculpture.

Romero eased out the opening, hooked his other tether to the exterior and braced himself on one knee. He kneeled sideways, parallel to the deck, and took aim at our pursuer.

Both missiles swooped in towards the ship and then exploded.

From the bridge, I heard a chorus of cheers and Krackow yelled out, “They got them, sir!”

XO, “Good shooting, Ricky!”

Lt. Krackow, “They are slowing, but still closing. New intercept time, one minute forty-five seconds, sir.”

Captain, “We caught them off guard, but now they are cautious.”

There was an explosion and the ship veered to port before the helmsman got control.

ABS Lee, “What the Frak!”

ABS Rajoy, “Sir, we have lost the starboard PNP slip track.”

Captain, “Was that what I think it was Denton?”

XO, “Aye sir, a particle beam of some type.”

Lt. Krackow, “Captain, that registered as mesons!”

I called out through my circuit, “Sir, that’s not possible. Meson particle beams are only theoretical. They have only been created in laboratory conditions and then only low powered.”

Lt. Krackow, “That was twenty-thousand mega-joules, Captain.”

XO, “We’re fraked!”

Captain, “Thornton they’re not theoretical any more. Rosie, institute protocol alpha-five-stopgap.”

“Roger, Captain Leopard. Voice recognition verified. Emergency EA protocol alpha-five-stopgap standing ready.”

Captain, “All hands, this is the Captain. Abandon ship! I repeat, all hands, abandon ship! The lifepods are set on automatic to depart in two minutes. Do not override the programming! I repeat, do not override the programming. It’s been an honor. Rosie, set time interval at two minutes. Execute!”

“Roger, Captain Leopard. Executing and going to HAL mode.”

Captain, “Romero, delay firing as long as you can and I’ll meet you at the closest lifepod. I won’t leave you unless I have to, but you’ve got to hit that bastard or we’re all dead.”

Chief Romero, “Captain, don’t wait on me. I’m going to wait till this bitch is pointblank and then I’ll get me some. Been an honor sir and good hunting.”

Romero looked at me and said, “This is my bitch to slap. Get to your lifepod. I’ll buy the time you all need.” I waited a moment. “Ensign, get your ass out of here and kiss my girl for me when you get planet-side.”

I asked him, “Which planet?”

“Any, sir! I have a girlfriend on everyone!”

I was going to engineering to get Carmen. The ship shuttered and rocked wildly. One-hundred-five seconds remaining, this was going to be tight.

What is going on? Are those pirates? Are they some secret prototype using a freighter as target practice? Or is it something else? And what the frak is protocol alpha-five-stopgap? All of this and special guest appearances! Good hunting until our next episode.

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