Science Fiction The Oracle
#51
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiEDvIlndEs


Episode 30 - Flight


The jolt of the maneuver engine jostled Ardelle to wakefulness. She blinked bleary eyes, yawned, then tapped a button and zoomed in on the tactical map.


“What is it?” Elliot asked also coming awake. Emerging from the darkness, he joined her under the soft blue glow as she hunched over the tactical map. She heard the sounds of soft breathing coming from the cargo bay as chameleons and marines slept or tried to.


“Just hoping for a miracle,” she said as she studied their approach to the blinking dot.


“Is that the Oracle?” Elliot asked, pointing at the dot. “How did you--”


“It might be. These were coordinates I found in some ancillary data from the brief connection you had with them. Like I said. I’m hoping for a miracle.”


“Ma’am,” the pilot called over the comms. “We’re approaching rendezvous with target.”


She looked out the view port and saw that they rose into a massive ice field formed by comets or asteroids passing near the planet and getting caught in its gravity well. Ice crystals as large as glaciers on earth drifted by. She blinked against the bright sun reflecting from and refracting through the crystal-like ice structures.


“Good. Continue on course,” she said and then keyed the internal comms to both shuttles, “Listen up,” she said. “We’re coming up on where we think the Oracle is located. We don’t know what’s out here, but we think she’s hiding from something. Everyone stay buckled up but remain sharp.”


Do they spot the Oracle right away?


(Somewhat Likely | 4[d10]) Nobut...


But it might spot them...? 


They were close. But where was it? Their passive sensors had still not detected anything. She gripped the console, knuckles white as the numbers counted down. “Come on,” she whispered. Without active sensor sweeps, it would be nearly impossible to locate she knew. Visually spotting it was worse than a needle in a haystack. It’d be a needle in an ice-stack. It had to be along their current trajectory...


“Lot’s of ice up here. Plenty of places for it to hide,” Elliot said. “I’m sure it’s here. Just hiding.”


“If Oracle is hiding in this field, that means it had to move off its previous drifting course or risk smashing into something, right?” Ardelle asked. She leaned back and massaged her forehead. “If it was the Oracle to begin with. What if I grabbed some random numbers from something completely unrelated and created this out of whole cloth?”


“You did what you could,” Elliot said, touching her arm. “Don’t be hard on yourself. You saw something in those numbers.”


“If it’s hiding behind miles of ice, would passive sensors would be able to sense it through these fields? How close would we need to be?”


“As long as it’s emitting something, passive sensors should be able to at least detect--”


“Ma’am, something has pinged us with active sensors!” The pilot said and Ardelle could hear the tightness in his voice.


“Is it--” but she couldn’t complete her sentence, the pilot jinxed so hard she and Elliot floated for a moment and when other thrusters kicked in the motion threw her against Elliot, slamming both of them into the interior bulkhead.


“We’re being fired on!”  The pilot shouted.


An ice mountain exploded next to them sending smaller chunks spraying out into their path. Some of those chunks were as big as their shuttle and the glistening chunks headed straight for them.


“Hang on!” 

TN 6 to pass.
3 = 3[d6] 
3 plus pilot of 3 = 6 success


The shuttle twisted, and she and Elliot once more slammed into one of the shuttles walls before the pilot leveled the shuttle out again.


How is the Egg Crate faring?


Punish / Love


Sounds like it took some punishing damage when it veered away to avoid a crash with Seraphim? How bad is the damage?


(11 = 11[d20]) Minor Damage: Largely superficial; degrades performance, but not disabling.
Not that punishing... Smile


“Who’s shooting at us? The aliens?” She asked as Elliot helped pull her to her feet. She felt bruised all over. She buckled herself into her seat and motioned for Elliot to do the same. He sat down with a groan next to her. “I hurt all over.”


“I don’t know ma’am,” the pilot said. “With only our passive sensors, it’s hard to--”


“Forget about that! Whatever is shooting at us already knows we’re here. Ditch the passive sensors! Do an active sweep, full sensors! Now!”


“Aye ma’am, full active sweep!” There was a brief pause, and she heard him pressing controls. “Sensors are still screwy, but we’re close enough to get some data. Coming on tactical now.”


Her eyes darted to the holo-tactical and her heart fluttered as the stats came in on the scanning results. The holo image flickered, winked out and then came back on its digital image hazy.


“It’s not an earth ship...” Elliot said as she pulled up the information on her own console.


“No, it's not.” she exhaled a sigh of relief. “Not from earth. But it is clearly a human ship. I’ve seen the type. From the size and engines, I’d guess a light cruiser class,” Ardelle said.


“Bigger than Oracle then?”


“Yes,” she said. “It’ll have shields, about triple the amount of weaponry...”


“Great,” Elliot groaned.


She pointed to the console next to her. “Take over on sensors so the pilot can focus on his job. See if you can find the Oracle.”


“Aye ma’am,” Elliot sad sliding into the console next to her and looking over the sensor data.


She keyed the comms to the other shuttle. “Egg Crate, how’re you doing?”


“We’re okay for now ma’am,” the pilot said in a confident drawl. “Some ice messed up our paint job. Minor damage that could cause problems in atmo. Other than that, we’re good.”


“Good.”


The pilot jinxed the shuttle again bringing them around the other side of a large ice rock.


“You’re not going to believe this,” Elliot said studying the scanning data coming in.


“Try me,” she said.


If the bug aliens aren't in space here, the only thing I can think of is that there's an unknown possibly hostile ship of human origin. They could have managed to detect Oracle’s route to the jump point to Spenalk. Makes sense that there could be another hostile ship out there. It could be one from the Independent Coalition of Colonies (ICC... or abbreviated as TICC for those from earth / sol system).


Is that what it is?


(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes


Is the human ship larger than Oracle?


(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yesbut... +Event: Change / Intrigues


Yes but not by much. It’s a ship class larger. It’s been modified and its presence is a mystery (intrigue).


“It’s a ship from the ICC!”


“What’s a tick ship doing way out here?”


He shrugged. “Want me to patch comms through to them so you can find out?”


“Is case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t much in the mood for conversation,” she said.


Does the other ship spot their approach to Oracle? I'll say SU given the sensor situation in the system.


(Somewhat Unlikely | 10[d10]) Yesand...


Great... AND the trajectory of the shuttle leads them to locate the silent-drifting Oracle. They'll have to dock quickly and get out of there. There are a lot of asteroids meteors etc in this system. So lots of debris and things to hide behind or run into in a chase scene. Should be fun...!


And once it locates the Oracle does it attack the science vessel?


(Somewhat Likely | 5[d10]) Yesbut...


But it's hampered by targeting systems getting screwy with the cosmic storm and asteroids, meteors etc, causing issues.


So, it'll be a race to see who can get to Oracle first and who doesn't get pummeled by the meteors.


“They’re firing again! Two missiles inbound!” the pilot shouted and again jinxed and chaff and countermeasures streaked out behind them. This time she and Elliot were buckled into their seats, but the motion slammed her teeth together anyway and brought tears to her eyes. 


“They missed?” Ardelle asked.


“Don’t...think so,” the pilot said. “I’m doing what I can, but you know how good targeting computers are, especially at these slow relative speeds.”


Elliot shook his head as the missiles streaked onwards and beyond them. “No... they’re targeting something else! Ahead of us.” 


The tactical readout showed two missiles... zipping past them. Through the camera feed on the viewport she saw their contrails arc and twist as one slammed into a frigid asteroid ahead of them. Thousands of ice shards spread out in a glowing shimmering cloud. The other missile zipped through the expanding ice cloud continuing onwards.


Seraphim raced through the cloud and Ardelle heard the plinks of ice on the hull and felt small shudders as larger chunks struck their armored surface.


Elliot said. “I’m picking up energy readings ahead of us. Weapons fire! Not at us... two pulse shots just struck the ship behind us!”


She saw the readings on her tactical display. 


“Something shooting it? Is it the Oracle?”


“Bringing it up now on tactical...Yes! We found her!” Elliot said.


The relief in his voice sounded as palpable as her relief felt. Like the sun had emerged behind a dark cloud bank during monsoon season on Spenalk 3. When she saw Oracle on her tactical, she almost whooped. But her relief drained away, and her leg started jogging up and down as she tracked the missile continuing towards Oracle.

Oracle tried to use her directional thrusters to edge behind an asteroid, but the missile had too many smarts for that. It arced around the large ice rock and an orange explosion erupted in front of them.


“No...” Elliot gasped.


“She’s a tough ship. She can take more than that. She has class 3 armored hull. She can take more than a single missile strike.”


But Ardelle knew that Oracle wouldn’t be able to stand toe to toe with a light cruiser class for long. Even if Oracle hasn’t been converted from a military destroyer and had her full complement of original weaponry, she’d still be outgunned. It’d be a closer fight, but in all the combat sims she’d been a part of, a light cruiser class was simply a heavier ship. Slower yes, but able to dish-out and withstand more damage. 


Their only option was flight.


She jammed the comms button. “Oracle? This is Ensign Ardelle Leathe! We see you. We have critical information that needs to reach High Command. We’re coming in fast... Open the landing bay doors!”


They streaked around another asteroid, keeping it between them and the Light Cruiser behind them. The enemy ship that would be in medium shooting range of Oracle shortly. Another missile streaked passed them towards oracle and impacted off its armored hull.


The comms crackled and flared to life in her ear. “Ensign Leath,” it was one of the watch standards on the bridge. The voice sounded nervous. Tense. “We’re in a combat situation and cannot--” 


Ardelle dug her fingernails into her other arm. “Who’s in charge?”


“That’d be Lt. Garcia, Ensign, and he said--”


“Connect me to him on the line! Now!” She shouted into the comms. Elliot looked at her his eyebrows climbing his forehead and then shifted back to his console. 


“Wait one,” the comms officer aboard Oracle said. 


While she waited and ground her teeth, she shifted her attention to the pilot of Seraphim, “Get us to Oracle! All possible speed! We must get board that ship!”


“The landing bays doors aren’t open,” the pilot said. “They’re not ready to receive us.”


“Just do it! I’ll get the doors open.”


“Aye ma’am!” 


She felt the after burner kick in and gripped her console as the shuttle darted past more hulking blue asteroids that shimmered rainbows in her eyes.


A slender older man with gray hair, a gray handlebar mustache, and piercing blue eyes appeared on her holo-display. The picture shimmered, pixelated and then came back a little clearer.


“Ensign. Lieutenant Garcia here!” a voice like scraped gravel barked, and the holo display in front of her flared to life to show the interior of the Oracle’s bridge. “We’re in a bit of a situation as you can see,” He sat in Captain Alestranda’s chair his rail-thin frame taut with tension. "What's the emergency?"


“They just took another hit ma’am,” Elliot said. Ardelle registered the red damage markers that flared to life around the Oracle’s display on the holographic tactical map and Lt. Garcia swayed in his chair. She zoomed in on the Oracle. Seraphim’s own cameras were updating her own data. The ship was still in one piece. More armored hull blown off and probably some minor damage inside.


“Sir,” she said. “We are inbound. ETA 3 minutes. I need those doors open and ready to receive us!”


“Ensign. Get off the comms, and get me Captain Alestranda. We’re being fired upon. I need her orders, and I needed them yester--”


“Both she and the XO are dead!” Ardelle said, shoving the bluntness of the fact full in his face.


“What? Dead?” Lt. Garcia whispered and he seemed to teeter on his chair. In his mid fifties, she had thought Lt. Garcia was already ancient, but now he seemed to age another ten years before her eyes.


“How...? No. Nevermind, I need you to--”


“They died in combat on the surface!” She swallowed as the bitterness rose within her. “You are right that we have a situation, but trust me, it’s much more than just this one ship.”



Does Lt. Garcia listen and open the doors?


(Somewhat Unlikely | 5[d10]) No



He straightened in his chair, “I’ll be the judge of that.”


“Sir, you have to listen to me!" she said and knew anger tinged with desperation had crept into her voice.

"No I don't. The situation is critical. Now get off this channel!"

So many more dead if she failed now. "Sir, I’m ordering you to open the doors! Under authorization code--”

“You’re ordering me?” Lt. Garcia gave a mocking laugh, but it was humorless and icy cold. He leaned forward looming in the display. “You listen to me, Ensign, I am your senior officer, and you know the line of succession goes to the next highest ranking line officer. And that’s me! When you get on board, you’ll be court martial-ed for insubordination. Now clear this channel! I have a battle to run.”


The comms went dead. A battle? Ardelle slammed her fist on the console and jammed the comms button again. No answer from Oracle's bridge. Elliot glanced over at her. “A problem?”


“Is he really thinking of going toe to toe with the light cruiser?”


“Ma’am?” the pilot’s urgent voice came over the comms.


“Stay the course,” she said.


The shuttle twisted between two asteroids that collided in a shower of crystalline shards behind them as a missile joined the mix in a ball of light.


“Elliot, know anyone in Engineering that’s good with computers?”


“Good? No. But scary-crazy? Yes. Crewman Marisella Libby,” Elliot said.


“Scary-crazy works for me,” Ardelle said. “It sure beats dying out in an ice field from a crazed ICC ship,” she muttered. “Get her on the horn.”


“On it!” Elliot said.


A few seconds later, a short and stout woman of Asain descent appeared on the holo-screen.


“Crewman Libby here. Oh... hey Ell?”


“Mari,” Elliot said. “We need a favor.”


--

How is the Light Cruiser modified?


Fight / Portals




First thing that comes to mind if boarding pods.




*is




Is that it?




(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes +Event: Heal / Power




I'll ignore the Heal / Power...




So it sounds like it's basically a pirate ship, designed for speed and to get in close and launch boarding pods.




Is it unshielded?




(Somewhat Likely | 3[d10]) No




We'll see if it hits the Oracle.




Oracle is hiding strategically behind ice. I'll say that adds one to the defense.




Is the commander of the ICC ship a skilled commander?




(50/50 | 2[d10]) No




What about Oracle?




(Somewhat Unlikely | 6[d10]) No, but...




No, but better than the ICC commander. Well, that's something.




We roll initiative. Oracle gets Quickness of 8 plus Command of 2, plus die roll:




3 = 3[d6]




So 13 total.




Thunder gets Quickness 6 plus Command of 1, plus die roll:




1 = 1[d6]




So 7 total. Oracle acts first.




Artillery skill of ICC ship:




1 = 1[d3]




Shooting skill of ICC ship:




3 = 3[d3]




Shooting skill of Oracle:




2 = 2[d3]




So Oracle is being targeted. They rotates weapons and shoot first.




Str 9 + Shooting 2 = 11 -- That's an automatic hit on the cruiser without rolling any dice. Hmmm. Not sure I like that.




What about Thunder shooting at Oracle:
Str 11 + Artillery + 1 = 12 -- Modified defence of Oracle is 12
Sound like the dice rolls aren't going to be used at all? What am I doing wrong?




Let's see what happens:




5 = 5[d6]




So if they roll a 5 to hit Oracle. They get a 17. Oracle takes 5 damage...?
So it's down to 23/28.




But oracle would have hit it first:




11 +

4 = 4[d6]



15 total vs Defence of 11. So 3 damage. It has shields of 5 so the pulse shots don't break through the shields...




I'm not crazy about the spaceship fighting system in OneDice. It doesn't seem nuanced enough for me. If I do a season 2 of this story, I'll be switching RPG systems.

So once the shooting starts everyone sees each other.
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#52
Episode 31: Landing

“Ma’am, we’re at T-45 seconds. Oracle’s still sealed tight,” the pilot said. The tactical display showed the Oracle’s blip drawing closer and closer.


Pulse shots and missile fire erupted around them crashing upon Oracle’s hull and splashing against the light cruiser’s shields. Oracle’s armored hull held, but portions of it were flaking away. Others had already buckled. How much longer before the ship took serious internal damage?


“Stars...she’ll take a beating...” Ardelle whispered, clenching her jaw and gripping the console. 


“Mari will get those doors open,” Elliot said.


“She didn’t seem too excited to help,” Ardelle looked at him. “What changed her mind?”


He shrugged. “A few schematics of the ancient tech from the Chameleon’s old colony ship. The chance to study some alien tech before anyone else goes a long way with these code monkeys. It also didn’t hurt that I reminded her that if I got spaced out here she’d never see the 25 grand I owed her.”


“Remind me to ask you about that if we get through this.”


Her display showed the doors on the Oracle began opening and relief flooded into.


“Told you,” Elliot smiled.


She shouted as an ice crystal the size of a frigate rear up erratically in front of them. 


The pilot attempted to jet around its edge. He succeeded and luckily only barely nicked the ice-rock. But the force that slammed into the ship felt like a hammer from an angry titan. Ardelle’s head slammed into the console, cracking it and an angry bruise began welling up on the side of her head. The lights flickered back on. Flickered again and then went dark. Then the red emergency lighting began blinking on and off.


The enemy ship that bore down on Oracle could not avoid the massive ice rock, and the collision with it did what Oracle’s weapons could not.The light cruiser’s shields suddenly buckled as the jagged crystalline rock broke under the collision and spun apart in a dozen large pieces. The light cruiser veered off at an angle away from Oracle and above it.

Does the enemy ICC ship hit any space ice? That might help even the odds?

(Somewhat Likely | 9[d10]) Yes

How much damage does it do?

Is it a huge rock?

(Somewhat Likely | 7[d10]) Yes

Okay so I'll say 1d10

5 = 5[d10]

5 - 3 remaining shields = 2 damage. Health is now 28-2 = 26/28

Nothin' crazy yet.


The twin pulse cannons on Oracle slammed blast after blast into the enemy ship’s underside, but the fusillade was only just getting started on the other ship’s armored hull. Ardelle knew that the ship was far from out of the fight. In a slug fest, the Oracle would still lose.

Plus two more pulse shots on the ICC ship for 3 more damage = 23/28

“Sorry,” the pilot muttered. “Just a paint scratch.”


“Let’s try not to get any more scratches,” she replied.


“Roger!”


“I’d hate to see what real damage looks like,” Elliot muttered, coughing and wiping blood from a scraped forehead.


“Ladies and gents. Buckle up! we’re coming in hard and fast and the landing might get a little rough.”


“Aren’t we already buckled?” Elliot said.


She glanced at the display and saw Egg Crate had also taken some damage in the aft section.


“You’re hit,” she asked them. “What’s your status?”


“One engine non-responsive!” the pilot of Egg Crate barked through the comms. “Cutting speed now!”


“They’re going to come in too fast!” Ardelle said. The visual display showed both shuttles approaching the same landing bay, Seraphim coming in first, Egg Crate lagging behind.


“Beginning counter burn... now!” the pilot of Seraphim said. The main engines swiveled to their forward position, and the ship shuddered under the massive thrust punched out by the twin engines. 


Pulse shots streaked past them from the Light Crusier slamming into Oracle, cracking and buckling armor plating.


Ardelle groaned against the gees that threatened to press her eyes out the backside of her head as the counter-burn continued, the forces inside of her growing. Oracle loomed ahead of them. 


Then they were there and slammed down into the spherical landing bay, skidding and scraping in a half circle, sparks erupting beneath them, one landing gear buckling. Ardelle groaned and sat for a few seconds, letting the blood continue its normal flow through her. She dizzily got to her feet, one hand against the shuttle’s wall support. Her head felt like it’d been through the ship’s heavy-weight kickboxing match.

Seraphim will try to dock lickedy-split. This will require a contest of piloting of shuttle vs TN of 8 to dock without damaging the shuttle or Oracle.

Piloting of 3 + ... DIE ROLL:

6 = 6[d6]

Boo--freaking--yah! Shuttle pilot is definitely getting a promotion from that!


She started to unbuckle. “Egg Crate is inbound!” the pilot breathed. “Hangar Bay 1...”


That was their hangar.... She watched the ship approach on the camera feed, a plume of flame jetted ahead of it and smoke billowed out from one of the engines, pouring out around the ship, as orange flames burned away at leaking oxygen. 


“How often do you fit two shuttles in one bay?” she asked Seraphim’s pilots. It seemed a little tight to her.


“First time will be today,” the co-pilot said.


“Might want to start praying if you’re a religious sort,” the other pilot said.


She sat back down and re-buckled then slapped the comms to everyone in the cargo bay. “Everyone stay put! Stay buckled up!” Then she watched the closed-circuit camera feeds showing the incoming Egg Crate.


It dove and spun seemingly out of control, then righted itself at the last minute and slammed down on its belly snapping all three landing gears. It skidded towards them, looming larger and larger.


Elliot closed his eyes and gripped his chair handles.


A loud scraping sound tore into her ears as the two hulls came together and Egg Crate slid past Seraphim, sparks spinning out in wild array. 


It slid to a stop, a wounded bird. The two sides of the external hangar bay doors met above them, clamping shut as atmosphere and smoke flooded the hangar bay.

Does Egg Crate make it?

3 = 3[d6]

So that's piloting of 3 + 3 = 6. That's 2 less than 8. So I'm going to say it slams down into the docking bay, but hard causing damage to itself, it's crew, and Oracle.


It's coming into the same hangar bay. Is it going to slam into Seraphim?


(Somewhat Likely | 9[d10]) Yes



Great. How bad is it going to be...?




Damage to the shuttles (I'll say 1d20 + the 2 for the failure)


(3 = 1[d20]+2) Negligible: Nick/Scratch/Dent.



Woah super lucky! Rolled a 1!



How hurt are the crew of Egg Crate (a new roll but against fleshy beings).



(13 = 11[d20]+2) Moderate Injury: Hampers action significantly; will require first aid/medical attention.


About what I would have expected... The ship took less damage than the crew.


“Crewman Walker and any able-bodied marines,” Ardelle ordered to both shuttles. “Gear up, and form on me! On the double! Leave any wounded and the Chameleons!” She unbuckled and opened the rear cargo door with a hiss, the ramp extending. Kalxons blared above her. The ship was in full red-alert status.


Behind her, marines grabbed weapons as she teetered down the ramp, still dizzy from the rough landing. She coughed as acrid smoke smelling burnt composites and melting electronics enveloped her.


Medical personnel raced towards the two shuttles, pulling out the wounded and shying away from the Chameleons with gasps of obvious awe at encountering an alien race for the first time. 


The pilots could explain that; she had a ship to save.
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#53
Episode 32 - Mutiny

Are there any marines that want to cause them trouble?
 
(Somewhat Unlikely | 8[d10]) Yes
 
Sounds like there might be a few marines following orders to bar her progress along the ship.

They raced down the hallway to the engineering section, four marines around her and Elliot all decked out in battle gear. No one stopped them as the entire ship seemed to be in a state of chaos but at the door to engineering a marine corporal in full battle armor stood and raised his weapon. 

The marines around Ardelle did the same training them on the marine corproal. Ardelle’s own weapon was trained on the man's head. This could get ugly... 

“Stay where you are, Ensign! Hands on your head!” The massive pulse rifle was pointed right at her, his face plate was up.

“Corporal, what are you doing?” She demanded.

“Lt. Garcia says you are to be taken into custody for insubordination. I’m only following orders ma’am. No offence. Now, drop your weapons before I’m forced to open fire.”

“No. You listen to me Corporal,” she said. “Sergeant Remy is dead. Captain Alestranda is dead. Lt. Morgan is dead. And we will all be dead unless I'm allowed to continue. I’ve been given provisional command authority of this ship, and I’m ordering you to stand down!”

He hesitated, but finally shook his head sadly, and his weapons suddenly hummed. “Final warning ma’am.”

Does this section of engineering get damaged giving them and advantage?
 
(50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and...
 
Nice. It completely catches him off guard. 
 
After that, how bad will the damage be in this section?
 
(5 = 5[d20]) Negligible: Nick/Scratch/Dent.

That’s good. Won’t need to go zero G and don survival suits just yet.

Without warning, the bulkhead shook and frayed wires splashed sparks from the wall to the right of the corporal. Some damage no doubt caused by some external shot from the light cruiser. But it didn't look too bad. The corporal backed up, raised an arm in distraction, and his gun lowered for just an instant.

Ardelle gritted her teeth. She hated firing on her own, but she did fire. She heard the four marines with her shoot as well, and the Corporal slid down against the wall as pulse shots slammed into him. He sank to the ground. She hoped his armor prevented him from death. He was a good soldier, only following orders. You couldn't fault a soldier for that. But he was following the wrong orders.

Pvt. Krissa kicked aside the marine’s weapon and trained her own on his head. Ardelle was relieved to hear him groan in pain. The corporal leaned back against the bulk-head in obvious pain, his face an ashen white, one hand gripped his midsection where the armor appeared the most buckled and scorched.

“See to his wounds, but don’t let him contact anyone.”

“Yes ma’am,” Krissa said.

Elliot keyed the door and they walked into Engineering. Marisella was there right where Elliot had said she would be.

“Mari,” he said with a warm smile. “Boy, you’re a sight for sore eyes. Thanks for opening the hangar doors!”

One hand was on her sidearm at her hip, a look of confusion on face. “I... I heard shooting,” she questioned. The three other marines took up defensive positions around them.

“A marine disobeyed a direct order in a combat situation,” Ardelle said bluntly.

“Ma’am?” she asked confused.

Ardelle leaned closer to the shorter woman. “I need you to listen to me, and listen carefully. Captain Alestranda gave me provisional command authority over Oracle. Her last order to me was to ensure that High Command received the information about the alien threat. I cannot do that if Oracle is destroyed by Lt. Garcia’s pride and foolishness. You know ship schematics. You know this ship cannot withstand a toe to toe fight with a light cruiser.”


Mari nodded, her eyes wide.

“And you’ve seen the alien schematics Elliot sent you?”

“Yes ma’am,” she whispered her lips parting. “It’s... They’re amazing!”

“Then you know we’re not lying. There’s an alien threat. Now, transmit this override code to Oracle’s main computer, then give me full access to the ship’s systems from this console.”

Oracle shuddered under another hit, and sparks exploded from a console nearby blowing an engineer backwards into a wall. Two others dragged him away and put out small fire.

“Do it! Before this ship is torn apart!” she coughed.

“Aye ma’am,” Mari swallowed and tapped into her console, her hands shaking a little. “What is the code?”

Ardelle felt the metal pendant cylinder in her pocket, thought of the stored information about the violent history between the two alien races she had met. Her hand gripped around it tightly. She remembered the blood dripping down around Captain Alestranda and Lt. Morgan. She heard Captain Alestranda’s voice in her head as she repeated the code to Mari.

Delta niner foxtrot tango.”

Mari typed in the command. The console flickered and then came to life with access to the ship’s systems. “It’s done.”

From her console, Ardelle first locked down the bridge consoles so they couldn’t access anything other than comms. She keyed in a course for Spenalk 2, tapped the auto-pilot button, and then engaged the main engines.

The ship shuddered as Oracle began a slow turn-and-burn towards the system’s second planet. It’d take time to clear the ice field with the AI navigating, and it would take time to get up to top cruising speeds, but it was the best she could do without full access to the bridge. 

The ship shuddered as more shots slammed into Oracle. She only hoped the engines didn’t take a direct hit. Their ship was faster and more maneuverable--she only prayed they would have enough time to .

It was a matter of seconds. “Engineering, what in the blazes is happening!? We’re in a battle! And our consoles just went dark! And the main engine just lit up!” Lt. Garcia fumed across the comms.

“This is Ensign Ardelle Leathe, and I’ve relieving you of command.”

“You can’t do that! This is mutiny.”

“It is already done. Call it what you may, but this is for the good of humanity. If you don’t do anything stupid, you might live long enough to understand what’s happening.”

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with Ensign! I swear on my ancestors that I’ll have you before a firing squa--”

Ardelle ignored him, killed his comms, and locked him and the rest of the bridge out of the comms as well as the other systems. For the time being, the bridge would only be able to receive comms. It wasn’t perfect, but it should give her the time for what needed to be done. 

She tapped the button for ship-wide communications.

This is Ensign Ardelle Leathe, the sole bridge crew science officer. Pursuant to Earth Naval Regulations, section 1008 and Captain Alestranda’s final command before her death...and to my sacred oath of service, I’m taking command of Oracle and relieving Lt. Garica of command. I order all marines loyal to earth’s navy and loyal to honor and duty to join me. This fight against the ICC ship is unwinnable, and the information gained planetside must reach high command. We must retreat to the jump point.” 

She pulled out the cylinder still covered with flakes of dried blood and inserted it into the computer console.

“I am transmitting to all consoles and screens shipwide the true nature of the threat we face from this sector of space. You will see for yourself what killed Captain Alestranda and Lt. Morgan.” Alien schematics and a video feed of the vicious aliens and their final attack on the Chameleon city flared to life.

It would take time for all that to sink in, and she hoped it would grant her the needed legitimacy she needed from the two platoons of marines. If it didn’t, they had already lost. This wasn’t how she had planned to start her own command, but she had little choice.

“Zip-tie him," she said to the drugged and medicated corproal. "Then with me!” Ardelle said to Krissa and the other marines. “We have a bridge to take.” 

Pvt. Krissa nodded, tied up the corporal, then jogged to catch up, leaving the groaning wounded semi-conscious marine in the corner of the passageway.
Reply
#54
Just a hunch, but I don't believe this ship is making it home.  Undecided
Reply
#55
(Teviko604, you never know... We'll see what happens.  Huh )

Episode 33 - Captain

She had left Elliot in the engineering section to repair damage. She and the other marines had moved up a level and rounded another corner. They found a fireteam of marines. She and those with her immediately raised their weapons, but the fireteam of marines had their hands raised, holding them well clear of their weapons.


“Ensign Leath?” One of them called to her. “Don’t shoot! Captain Davis sent us! We’re from first platoon, 2nd quad! The marines are with you.”


Captain Davis was the marine captain in charge of all the marines on Oracle. He was a competent non-nonsense officer.


“Once we heard what you said and saw those vids of the aliens, we--well we’re with you. All of us.”


“All of you?” She breathed a sigh of relief she hadn’t known she was holding. “All the marines?”
Do the remaining marines aboard Oracle join her cause? (+1 Oracle is damaged, +1 she brought news of Alestranda's last command, +1 she showed proof of the alien threat).


(Very Likely | 10[d10]) Yes, and...


And they quickly rally to her cause


“Yes ma’am. Both platoons, minus the guards Garica ordered to detain you.”


“What are your orders, corporal?”


“Captain Davis said to ask you. We’re to follow your orders ma’am.”


She nodded to the marines of second platoon, third squad that were with her, “Get these men some combat suits, then get me comms to Captain Davis.”


“This way,” the corporal nodded all of them dashed into the nearby armory where suits lined the walls. As the marines dashed off to get suited up, the coporal tapped his comms, and she heard Captain Davis’s voice crackler in her ear.


“Captain Davis here.”


“This is Ensign Leath.”


“Ah. Ensign, what are your orders?”


It felt strange to be giving orders. A part of her felt like an imposter. The other part of her remembered Captain Alestranda’s dying orders.


“Captain, secure all critical facilities. Don’t let any of Garcia’s men get anywhere near them or near any weapons. Then send a backup team to bridge. We’re on our way there now, but the extra firepower wouldn’t hurt.”


“I’m on it. Good luck, Ensign; we don’t fancy dying out here.”

“I’m not too keen on the idea either, Captain.”


It didn’t take long for the remaining marines of third squad to get suited up. They gathered around her some holding weapons at the ready, securing the passageway at both ends. Their powered armor made them loom over her, advanced powered servos whirring as they enhanced speed and strength, turning already capable warriors into lethal killing machines. She hoped it wouldn’t come to a fight. But she didn’t have any illusions about Garcia’s hatred of her.


The marines ran ahead of her, crouching at corners, signaling her and the others onward as they leap-frogged down passageway after passageway. It reminded her of the boarding operation maneuvers she had practiced in officer training. Only she wasn’t wearing powered armor. She did have on the ablative suit from earlier, but she hadn’t trained extensively in combat armor and knew she would only slow them down.


From the armory, they had taken a lift up and now ran down a hallway that would round into a junction with another that would lead them to the bridge. As was common on most ships, the bridge sat in the center of the ship, protected from the harsh environment of outer space by deck plating and meters of structural integrity.


The passageway she and the marines currently traversed neared a service hatch that led to the outside. Doors slid open and Ardelle entered the hallway when a blast struck their ship. A blinding explosion erupted in front of her throwing her backward against the wall. The hull plating buckled and a ragged gash perhaps five feet in diameter and three feet long gaped in the room showing empty space. Rapid decompression roared around her and threatened to suck her out of the ship, she slid across the floor and her fingers gripped a buckled piece of floor plating. The edge was sharp. It cut through her gloves but she held on, even when blood seeped out the edges and she gasped in pain.


Private Dwight Morgan, the comms specialist in squad 3 had also been knocked off his feet by the blast. He shouted and was sucked towards the exit. The blackness of space also gaped open to take Private Claxton who skidded backwards tumbling end over end over the floor.


Frantic voices shouted over the comms, claxons blared, and a red light began flashing. Corporal Whately reached out and grabbed Morgan as he skidded across the floor and Claxton slammed into Chubbs who reached out and grabbed the tumbling man with a meaty arm.


Blast doors started to drop to prevent a full decompression of the entire level. It was already getting hard to breathe, but Ardelle could do little but hold on. The hatch closest to her was already a third of the way down.


“Go! Go!” Krissa shouted, her voice sounded tinny in her ears. Ardelle felt strong hands grab her and tossed her bodily through the closing doorway. She hit hard and rolled on the floor. Corporal Whately was the last to make it, rolling under the closing blast door as it sealed with a hiss.


“Geeze, that was fun,” Kirssa muttered. “Just like the decompression drills in basic, eh Claxton?”


“Except failure there was two more hours of drills and PT. Here? I would’ve been drifting in space until my suit ran out of air. I owe you one Chubbs!” he clapped the larger man on the shoulder.


Chubbs grinned back at him. “You can buy me a drink when we get back earthside.”


“Stars man, you’ll get a case of the finest!”


Private Dwight Morgan appeared shaken and Whately hauled him to his feet. “We got you,” Corporal Whately said, patting his combat suit with his gloved hand. “You’re okay.”


Private Morgan nodded but his face was ashen.


“Well, that way is sealed off. Long way round to the bridge then,” Ardelle said and moved off in  the opposite direction.



---------------------
I'll say in all the pounding, oracle takes two internal damage shots. Rolling to see what was hit now...
 
Passageway
 
Passageway
 
Nothing critical just some passage ways on some decks were blow out to vacuum. Was anyone in them when they were hit?
 
1st shot
 
(50/50 | 3[d10]) No
 
2nd shot
 
(50/50 | 10[d10]) Yes, and...
 
And... since it's a dramatic episode here, I'll say it affects Ardelle's team as they're moving to the bridge.
 
It creates a dramatic shift in air pressure in the hallway.
 
They have to make strength to keep holding onto something or risk being sucked out into vacuum.
 
Marines are in Powered Combat Armor (PCA) and are granted extra strength. They get a +1 to Str-related rolls.
 
This is the group with Ardelle at he moment... 
1. Pvt Danny K. Winters - Marine on shuttle to Spenalk 2
2. Pfc Krissa Walker - Marine on shuttle to Spenalk 2 (Elliot’s brother)
3. Pvt James J Dummond - Marine on shuttle to Spenalk 2
4. Pvt Harold M. Chubb - Marine on Shuttle to Spenalk 3
5. (Roll again)
6. Pvt Matthew K Claxton - Marine on Shuttle to Spenalk 3
7. Corporal Carol J Chestor - white, female, age 23 short black hair, dark eyes
8. Pvt
9. Pvt Odell J Boon - white, female, 5’ 2”, age 19.
10. Pvt 
11. Elliot
12. Ens. Ardelle Leath
 
We'll randomly roll 3 times. These are the people closest to the sudden decompression when it gets hit. They have to roll a Str check.
 
6 = 6[d12]
 
Private Claxton...
 
12 = 12[d12]
 
Ouch... Ardelle! And she's not strong. Hopefully someone can grab her.
 
6 = 6[d12]
 
(already rolled 6 - Rolling again)
 
5 = 5[d12]
 
(5 is empty slot. Roll again)
 
8 = 8[d12]
 
A random private in the squad we haven't met yet....
 
Let's meet him now. Smile
 
Dwight T. Morgan, 6' 1" 250 lbs, Blond, Ground Comms operator specialist
 
Is difficulty more than 6?
 
(50/50 | 3[d10]) No
 
Less?
 
(Unlikely | 2[d10]) No
 
TN is 6 then.
 
Ardelle has a 2. She needs a 4 or higher to not get sucked out.
 
4 = 4[d6]
 
Right on!
 
What about Dwight? I'll say he has to roll a 2+ since he's a strong lad and has powered combat armor.
 
1 = 1[d6]
 
Go figure. See ya Dwight... Can anyone grab him?
 
(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes
 
If someone makes a difficult str check TN 8 they can grab him. +1 str for PCA.
 
Is it Chubbs?
 
(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...
 
Chubbs is next closest... who is closest?
 
I'll say Corporal Whately.
 
He has Str 3, + 1 PCA = 4
 
He needs 4+ to grab the man.
 
4 = 4[d6]
 
Nice!


What about Private Claxton?


Needs to roll 2+ to not get sucked out.


1 = 1[d6]


Geez... Can Chubbs grab him?


(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...


Yes, but with only 1 hand so -1 to hold onto Claxton.


Chubbs has Str 5 through... 5 - 1 = 4 + 1 PCA = 5 + DIE ROLL vs TN 8. So he needs to roll a 3+.


6 = 6[d6]


Nice. Everyone is saved!


They'll try to pull themselves back out of the hallway before the closest hatch completely closes.


Ardelle is the one who is truly threatened not having a suit. 
They try to fall back through the door they had just entered. 
Do they make it as a group (+1 they're close to the door, +1 they have chubbs and he's strong, +1 the marines are in PCA, -1 decompression is still happening, -1 the doors are closing fast).


(Somewhat Likely | 9[d10]) Yes
---------------------------------


They approached the hatch to the bridge and found a couple of marines standing there, but they had their weapons on the ground already, and their hands raised. They weren’t in combat armor. She recognized one as Private Ruiso. He had often stood on duty outside the bridge when Captain Alestranda had been alive.


“I’m sorry about Captain Alestranda Ma’am,” Ruiso said. “She was a good officer.”


“She was,” Ardelle said and felt the tightness in her throat.


“But we follow orders. Captain Davis said to stand down and to await any orders you gave.”


“Any word from Lt. Garcia?”


“There were some local communications. He tried to order us to take you down. Said we should fire and kill you, that you were insubordinate and trying to take over the ship, but well, we jad already heard your ship-wide communication. Then Captain Davis told us to stand down. So... ” He nodded to their weapons on teh ground.


“You were in a difficult situation, but you made the right choice. Pick up those weapons,” she ordered. “And fall in behind us. If things get ugly, third quad will go in first, since they’re armored, you come in after with me. But we’ll try to talk first.”


“Yes ma’am.”


She radioed down to Elliot and Marisella in engineering. “I need comms from the bridge partially restored. No shipwide access. Just to the hallway immediately outside of the bridge. Give me direct access through my comms unit.”


“Doing it now,” Marisella said. A few moments passed. The marines checked their weapons, “Comms are open. Go ahead Ensign.”


“This is Ensign Ardelle Leathe to the bridge crew. Both platoons of marines on board Oracle are under my direct command. I am ordering you to surrender and to come out quietly.”


How does the current bridge crew respond (not Garcia, but the crew)?


Intolerance / Danger


Sounds like they're intolerance (don't care?) about the danger.


Does Lt. Garcia relinquish command before things get violent. (+1 comms are down, +1 he hears that marines outside are joining Ens. Leathe's cause, -1 his bridge is intolerance, -1 he's a tough old commander who isn't about to be countermanded by a junior officer.)


(50/50 | 3[d10]) No


Show down on the bridge... okay.


“Leathe! I’ll see you dead with a bullet between your eyes!” the man shouted, and she could imagine a vein pulsing--maybe multiple veins. He sounded like he was chewing nails. “The void take you! I’m not surrendering my ship, and if you come in her guns blazing, you’ll see how real officers fight when cornered!”


“You well know and have proof that Captain Alestranda gave me the codes to control this vessel, otherwise I would not have control of all ship systems,” Ardelle said. “Until High Command decides otherwise, I am in command of this ship.”


“You can kiss my--”


She cut the comms. There was no point in getting in a shouting match with him.


“Cut open the hatch and take them down. Non-lethal weapons if you have them.”


The squad of marines nodded and stacked up outside the hatch. Corporal Whately was in front with Private Claxton. He rapped Claxton’s helmet. “Go ahead Private.” 


Pfc Claxton flicked his wrist and a special cutting torch emerged, and he began cutting open the door. It would take some time.


The backup team send by Davis also arrived. She had them guard the hallway. She didn’t want to have any surprises.


When the door was about cut, two others placed plastic explosives around the hatch. Everyone backed against the wall. “Remember to cover your sectors everyone. Non-lethal grenades first. Then we head in. Just like a training exercise. Take everyone down, non-lethal settings only. Repeat, non-lethal only.”


They all nodded their understanding, and Corporal Whately gave the order. The hatch blew inward in an explosion of fire and light. Ardelle’s ears rang.


Three members tossed flash-bang, tear-gas, chaff grenades. Once those went off, the others moved through the door, in a well-orchestrated maneuver. Every weapon covered a different area of the bridge.


The entire squad moved in and Ardelle, and the two unarmored marines followed after. She heard shouting and then shots rang out, but when Ardelle entered, all the defenders were down, slumped over consoles or lying on the ground. One console, the helm station, appeared to be damaged; smoke rose from its cracked and blackened console. 


Lt. Garcia rose up only partially stunned and tried to crawl to his weapon that was a few feet away from him. Private Chubbs, put his foot down on the gun and put another non-lethal blast of pulse into Lt. Garcia, and the older man slumped to the ground with a groan.


“Clear,” Chubbs said to Ardelle, keeping his gun trained on the fallen in case any others had bright ideas.


None of the marines were hurt. Some had taken shots that scored their armor but nothing had penetrated.


It was over.


Then she thought of the enemy ship. She trotted to Captain Alestranda’s chair. She looked down at it for a moment then sat down in it with a frown. She was the captain of The Oracle... for the time being anyway. 


She tapped her personal comms down to Marisella. “Restore all ship functions to the bridge. We’re going to need repairs on the bridge console ASAP up here as well.”


“I’ll send up a team right away,” Marisella said.


As the consoles came back to life, she motioned for Whately to join her. “Corporal Whately, have your men clear out these bodies, then put them in the brig. Don’t allow them to talk to anyone but see that any injuries are treated. Leave a fire team with me. They’ll be on the bridge maintaining security for the time being.”


“Yes ma’am.” He saluted and left Krissa, Claxton, Chubbs and Morgan with her. All the others hauled out the bodies.


“You four, congratulations. You’re on bridge duty at the moment. Each of you take a console.”


They settled in, their extra bulk from the armor threatened to snap the arms off the chairs. She tapped open the tactical screen and flicked the display to the center of the room where the hologram hung in front of them. Oracle continued to pick up speed as it arced away from Spenalk 3. 


They were out of the ice field now had escaped the gravitational pull of Spenalk 3, moving out of orbit in a transit. The enemy ICC ship, a red dot on the scanners, was falling behind out of weapons range. For the moment, they were out of danger. 


She breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back in her chair. For the moment.


“Claxton, give me a damage report,”


“Uhh, I’ve not used these systems before,” Claxton said, “But here goes.”


The shields flickered and went down. “Ummm.”


“What does this button do?” Krissa asked.


Ardelle frowned at the marines. “Uh, yeah, why don’t you four just guard the room okay?”


They nodded in obvious relief and grabbed their weapons. 


With full functions restored, she exhaled and tapped through the software to the ship-wide comms. This would be faster with the other bridge crew but... she’d manage for now.


“This is Ensign Ardelle Leath. I have secured the bridge and am captain of this vessel until High Command chooses someone else. I have placed Lt. Garcia and his bridge crew in custody. 


“Both platoons of marines under Captain Davis are under my direct command. They are ordered to secure the ship.


“And finally, the backup crew will report to the bridge immediately! If you’re not here in five minutes, a team of marines will escort you here. Captain Leath out.” She closed the connection.


She then used the security code from Alestranda and with the command software on the bridge, she managed to remove the override commands Marisella had placed down in Engineering, returning full and sole control of Oracle back to the bridge. She kept the ship on autopilot.


The back-up bridge crew arrived just as she signed out. They filed in, obviously nervous at having armed marines in full battle armor on the bridge. Even Ensign Jaskston Ross, who normally would have winked at her, or asked her out on a date, or complimented her jump-suit uniform, or something else utterly inane, only frowned at her, an expression of awe on his face.


“Take your places,” she said. “You’ve seen the vids I’ve transmitted?”


At their mute nods, she continued. “Then you know what we’re up against. The ICC ship is the least of our problems. Ensign Holden, what’s the state of the Oracle?”


“Bringing it up now, Captain,” Ensign Holden said.


The tactical holo screen moved to one side, and a schematic of the ship floated in front of them, damaged systems blinking in red. 


“One pulse cannon completely offline. Another damaged but still functional... just slower to fire. The shuttle bay is a disaster. Also two hallways on decks two and three have suffered full decompression. There was some light damage in engineering with some consoles blown. Life support is struggling to recover from the strain on the decompression earlier and with the additional... umm... crew from Spenalk 3.”


“I call them Chameleons,” she said. “Find some place for them to stay. And what about our engines? Jump drive?”


“All other systems are nominal Ensi-- I mean Captain.”


“Very good. Get teams repairing Oracle. Priority repairs are to the shuttles and shuttle bay. We need those functioning ASAP. And send me a casualty count to my console.”


“Yes Captain.”


“Drav,” she informed the helm. “As soon as that console is repaired, set up an intercept to Spenalk 2. We still have our team to pick up there.”
 

Would they even be alive, she wondered? She settled back into the captains chair and checked the damage reports and crew roster.


---------------------------------
While they're cutting open the hatch to the bridge, the other ICC ship is trying to give chase.


Does it stay on their tail?


(-1 it has to reverse engines since it flew past them, -1 it's hard to follow in the ice field, +1 Oracle is on auto pilot)


(Somewhat Unlikely | 2[d10]) No


It lags behind.


Marines use cutting torches to cut through the bridge door.


Since this is a multi-person combat, I'm not going to roll it all out. I'll just use the engine her to figure out what happens and will roll anything specific for Ardelle as needed.


They throw in flash bangs and storm the hatch.


They'll use non-lethal rounds as some of the bridge crew might not have had a choice but to follow orders from Lt. Garcia.


Do the marines and Ardelle take the bridge without any casualties? (+1 marines outnumber the defenders on the bridge, +1 they have better weapons, +1 they have PCA, +1 defenders deafened and blinded by the flash bangs, -1 they have to go through a choke point, -1 the crew is armed and ready.)


(Likely | 5[d10]) Yes, but...


But?


I'll use the MAG


(butter fly, head with eyes closed, ricochet shot, boot, crystal scepter, racing music note, explosion in tower/fortress, cup with wings, stylized onyx symbol)


I'll say that the defenders are knocked unconscious---assailants are not using lethal rounds so that makes sense--- but the firing from the defenders causes a ricochet that damages something on the CIC (bridge).


Racing note and wings make me think it damaged the helm controls... So -1 to Pilot checks until it's repaired.
Reply
#56
Episode 34 - Ending


From the bridge, Ardelle studied her display. Oracle had quickly outdistanced the ICC ship, Thunder, the designation the ship’s computer had given the enemy vessel. Oracle had dropped into low orbit around Spenalk 2. And while Thunder was still in transit in a slow stern chase, Ardelle knew that barring some catastrophe, Thunder couldn’t catch them. Oracle simply had a greater thrust-to-mass ratio. A more nimble ship, she could get up to speed more quickly, could turn more sharply, and could simply run should Thunder draw near.


And draw nearer it did. It was still a half a day behind them, and Ardelle hoped Oracle would be long gone on her way to the jump point by the time Thunder did arrive at Spenalk 2.


With distances so vast, and ships unable to break the light speed barrier, save in the strange realm of jump space, trips between planetary bodies within a star system, sometimes took several days. 


The last three days, the crew of Oracle had been busy repairing battle damage, patching holes, healing injuries, repairing damage to the shuttles and to the landing bay. The pulse cannon on Oracle’s “top” they wouldn’t be able to repair without a shipyard.


So far, casualties from the brief ship battle in the ice field were minimal with no deaths, save those who had given their lives on Spenalk 3: Captain Alestranda, Lt. Morgan, Sergeant Remy, Private McCoy. All in all she knew she should feel pleased with the results, but a gnawing sense of unease was growing in since they had slipped into orbit near Spenalk 2.


“Approaching designation point alpha now, Captain,” the watch standard said. 


You’re no Captain, a voice inside her muttered. 


She did feel like an imposter, and she knew there were those on the ship who saw her has such or worse as a tyrant. Be that as it may, she would complete the mission Captain Alestranda gave her, and would see Oracle back into friendly space.


“Ensign Ross, anything?”


“No one has responded to our communications from the planet-side team ma’am, and--wait, I’m getting something now! It’s faint.... It’s a video communications feed, running on a loop. Putting it through now.”


And she saw it. There was no audio, just a video of the gate, spinning, full of blue energy, then stabilizing; then dark insectoid shapes, scythe-like limbs, sharp teeth, claws, blurring speed, and death. She heard no screams but she felt them. Dark globules of blood flew through the vacuum-less depths, floating almost serenely, splattering on walls, equipment, computer screens. She saw the science team trying to flee to safety, but there was nowhere to run. The creatures were everywhere.


She felt sick. Numb.


The bridge had gone silent.


“Any life signs?”


“Checking... yes. I’m picking some up.”


She leaned forward in her chair, hope dawning. “We have survivors?”


“No ma’am,” Ensign Ross said. “I didn’t mean that. We are picking up life signs though. Hundreds of them in fact...it’s...” His voice trailed off and he swallowed.


“It’s the aliens,” Ardelle finished in a near whisper. She felt deflated and cold again. Then she ground her teeth and clenched her fist into a white ball. She wanted to unleash a hell of fire onto the aliens. She wished she had a battleship under her command instead of a half-battered military-science mashup. “Do an active sensor sweep, full-spectrum, and set the ship on yellow alert. I don’t want anything to catch us unprepared. We haven’t seen any alien fliers yet have we?”


“Going to yellow alert,” a watch standard said.


“Active sensor sweep now...” Ensign Ross said as Ardelle slowly unclenched her fist. “Nothing is appearing on our sensors. No ma’am, no vessels appearing in our sensors.”


She breathed a sigh of relief at that and leaned back in her chair. Thankfully whatever solar storm had interfered with their sensors a few days ago had lessened.


“Can we get active remote control of the video software?”


Ensign Ross tapped away at his console. “Yes, I’m pulling it up now.”


The video feed shifted from the recorded loop to an active feed. Somehow the aliens hadn’t discovered all the video cameras the human scientists had positioned at various throughout the cavern. The gate still churned with blue energy and bi-pedal beings in full black armor walked among the scythe-like aliens. Hundreds of creatures worked piecing together equipment and more equipment and beings came through the gate at every second bringing in weapons, tools, equipment.
 
“Are those... ships they’re building?” Ardelle asked.


“Smaller craft, yes,” Ensign Ross said. “I’d guess shuttles or maybe fighters.”


It made sense. Nothing larger than a small corvette-class vessel would be able to fit through the gate.


“How long until Thunder reaches us?”


“At its current velocity, the ICC ship will reach Spenalk 2 in four hours.”


She stood and felt a yawn nearly crack her skull. Stars, but she was tired. “Stand down from yellow alert but stay sharp. Do a few more orbits and get as much data as we can from the current feed. Also, run a cross check against the team assigned to Spenalk 2 and the attach we saw in those videos. See if anyone might still be alive down there.” In her heart, she already knew, but... “We have to know. I’ll be in my cabin. Let me know what you find out.”


--


Three hours later, she still couldn’t sleep. She sat in Captain Alestranda’s state room... at the desk. The room was a little bigger than a glorified closet. But it did have its own private shower, toilet, and a desk. That was more than could be said for any of the sailors on board. Space aboard starships was always a premium commodity. 


She turned the blood-flaked data cylinder over in her hands. Hands that started to tremble. The bridge hailed her and caused her to jump.


“Captain?” Ensign Ross’s voice sounded tired as well. Tired and somehow more mature than it usually did. “Sorry to disturb you, but you said--”


“Go ahead.”


“The video analysis. There... there weren’t any survivors.”


She grimaced and gripped the cylinder. She had known there wouldn’t be any. Those aliens--stars take them--were too efficient in their killing.


“The ICC ship will be inbound in one hour.”


“Anything new on the aliens?”


“Just more of the same,” he said. “More aliens and more equipment are flooding through at an even accelerated rate. They’ve probably detected us. No overt moves towards us yet, but probably because they don’t have fliers.”


She half considered sending both platoons of marines down to the cavern in an attempt to wipe out the incursion, but-- her hands shook and she knew she couldn’t. There could be thousands down there. 


“Set a course for the jump point. We’re done here.”


“Aye ma’am.”


She pocketed the cylinder and stood. The chronometer read 0300 shipboard time. She couldn’t sleep. Maybe a drink would help. 


---


The mess hall was nearly empty. Stars, she was tired, but sleep eluded her, resolving into fresh nightmares of black insects with scythe-like limbs clawing their way through her comrades. 

A few sailors coming off shift came in to get meals and glanced at her.


She closed her eyes and remembered the deaths on Spenalk 3. She remembered Private McCoy. His banter. His intelligence. His fear in those watery depths. She remembered Sargent Remy, Captain Alestranda, and Lt. Morgan.


Her right hand started to shake, and she sloshed coffee--if that’s what you called the black sludge--on her hand and on the table. She wiped up the mess with a napkin. It was insufficient for the job and she piled another five on top of the growing puddle. She grunted and heard a familiar voice behind her.


“Mind if I join you?... Captain?” Elliot asked.


“Don’t call me that.”


“But you are the cap--”


“I know what I said I am, and what I’m supposed to be,” she snapped, “But I also know what I’m not. I’m not her. I’m not Captain Alestranda. I--Nevermind,” she finished.


He sat down across from her, and shifted awkwardly in his chair. She stared at the pile of wet napkins and poked at it with her spoon. “Please. You of all people shouldn’t call me that.”


“Cap--I mean, Ensign, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean--”


Stars, but he was insufferable. “Just call me Ardelle, okay?”


He looked like he’d been bit.


“Sure... Ardelle. I--”


“I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that. It’s not you. It’s....” she swallowed and pulled out her data pad. “It’s this.” She slid it across to him. 


Curious, he tapped the play button and saw the video recording of their own science team on Spenalk 2 being torn apart by those...things. 
 

His face blanched.


“They’re all dead,” she said. “We weren’t fast enough. I wasn’t fast enough.”


“There wasn’t anything you could have done,” he finally said, his voice subdued. He turned off the tablet and looked her. His voice and gaze carried a surety that she clung to like a lifeline. 


“How can you be sure?” she searched his green eyes.


“Simple. The time stamp on the recording.”


“What?” she tapped on the tablet and looked at the date again.


She’d been so fixated on the savage attack she hadn’t even looked at the date.


“The aliens came through at the same time they emerged from the underwater gate on Spenalk 3,” he said. “There was nothing you could have done.”


She had already known that, but it helped to have him say it. She reached out and took his hand. “Thank you,” she whispered.


He blushed furiously and she let herself feel and inkling of pleasure at watching him squirm. But he didn’t pull away his hand.


“So what’s next?”


“We get back to friendly space. We tell High Command what’s going on and we wait for further orders.”


“Just like that? We get orders and pretend like nothing happened?”


“We’re in the military. We follow orders. It’s what we signed up for. It’s what we do.”


He scratched at his nose with his other hand. “It’s been... fascinating,” he said. “Parts of it anyway. Parts of it were terrifying, of course, but... Ancient civilizations... Alien races! Think about it! We’ll be famous!”


She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. She hoped not. She had had enough notoriety before joining the navy to last a lifetime. “I’m not interested in fame. But I would welcome the chance to come back with a fleet of earth ships to avenge Oracle’s fallen.”


“I’ll drink to that,” he said and took a sip of her lukewarm coffee. “Gross,” he sputtered.


“It’s coffee in name only,” she smiled. “Thanks for the chat, Elliot. I should get to bed,” She released his hand and stood up.


“I--I could...walk you...there. To your room not to your...uh...bed. Stars, I’m an idiot...” he muttered, his face the shade of a red dwarf.


“I know the way,” she smiled.


“I didn’t mean--I only meant--stars--I just...” he spluttered.


She smiled and left him holding her coffee cup.


---


The End.





--- GM Emulator Rolls ---

Is the gate opened on spenalk 2?


(Likely | 8[d10]) Yes




Are the crew dead?




(Likely | 9[d10]) Yes




Did any survive the initial attack?




(Unlikely | 6[d10]) No, but...




But?




Propose / Benefits




Are there any threats in space between them and the jump point?




(Unlikely | 1[d10]) No, and...




Are we detecting any alien life signs on Spenalk 2?




(50/50 | 7[d10]) Yes




The propose / benefits sounds like we got the attack on tape and can get more intel about the aliens on Spenalk 2.




Is the ICC ship pursuing them?




(50/50 | 6[d10]) Yes, but...




Yeah, but maybe it's fuel cells are low, it's doing a gradual acceleration and Oracle should be able to pull out in time as long as it doesn't get into any protracted engagement around the planet.




Casualties from the battle were low. Were there any deaths?




(50/50 | 3[d10]) No




Any of the bipedal aliens in armor?




(Somewhat Likely | 6[d10]) Yes




Any ships?




(Somewhat Likely | 6[d10]) Yes




Oooo. Fighter craft?




(50/50 | 9[d10]) Yes




Operational?




(50/50 | 5[d10]) No, but...



No but they're working on getting them operational.

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#57
Great story and an enjoyable read. It's always nice to see a solo campaign played through to resolution. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
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#58
Thanks Teviko604. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was enjoyable (mostly) to put together. Crafting narrative form takes a long time, and it was kind of burning me out so I needed to wrap it up.
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