Curse of Wedding Veil Nine

Gnome

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Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
by DWPenner @GNOME

It was creepy enough silently slipping through the rings of the super-Jovian planet of this next to uncharted system. But it was hard to keep the carbonaceous “soot” from coating the cockpit window making it even murkier than it might have been considering how far from the primary this planet sailed. Systems made to occasionally clear precipitation, whether water, or slushes of water or ammonia, or hydrocarbons while landing or taking off just weren't meant for operating in near vacuum.

This nearly 13 Jupiter mass monster had rings not only of ices, but with some rings of carbonaceous chondrite
"rocks" and some iron-nickel too! This was some find. A quick scan would have sufficed, but my sensors found other traces — traces of advanced polymer chains and alloys that shouldn't be found in nature. That meant a trip actually into the rings.

Normally I didn't fly this far out in my 315p — I'd be in Juliet Romeo Tango, my Freelancer with a few crew mates. But they were on a special haul with VIPs. That meant I was alone.

I found myself deep in the rings. Planetary rings. They are the place in space that look like the childhood fantasy vision of asteroid belts. It is in planetary rings that the bodies are so close you could nearly walk from one to the next like a logger crossing a river on a log jam. Of course how many people know what a logger or log jam is now — only someone from a frontier planet.

I never should have thought "bodies". I hate finding bodies in space. Those freeze-dried mummified corpses with their skull-like grins burned out burst eyes. With the soot covered windscreen I didn't see the first until it smushed against the navigation shields. Shumshed and shattered that is... "freeze-dried" remember.

Then I saw a second body, and a third. I slowed to max vel with them allowing the fly-by-wire to do the work of matching orbital mechanics. UEE Navy uniforms. Poor saps. Must be a naval ship cracked her hull somewhere in the rings. That would explain the traces my sensors picked up. I couldn't collect the corpses, but I could record their locations and scan their tags... well their PICs (Personal Identity Chips) with the ship short range scanner. I counted at least 23 bodies — all intact other than being mummified by vacuum of course. It must have been a modestly large ship at least. I don't recall any military action ever in this corner of the void.

I worked with the ship's computer... not as good as in the JRT ...but figured out a probable orbit despite the chaos of orbits in the ring. Who knows how many bodies were clinging to how many ring bodies... why did I think "bodies" again.

o o o

I was getting a strong reading on the sensors... I probably just had to round a few larger bod... carbonaceous ring particles.

Rounding a large one larger than many substantial planetoids and even smaller moons, I couldn't believe my luck! Hard to see through the soot covered wind-shield... I saw the bow of a Siberian Class Carrier! That was an incredible find! Difficult to make out much more. Easier to see with scanners. But even more incredible, Just behind that the stern of another one... another Carrier! Two Carriers! Even though I'd need help getting them out of the rings and back, it would more than put every member of our small company on easy street... or we might try running some sort of business out of a capital ship. Convert it into a cruise liner?

Oh! Wait... not two whole carriers.... two half carriers! That explains the bodies.

Still worth a bit of a look.

Strange... the stern looks like it is a Bengal class? No sign of escort fighters, no sigh of damage aside from being torn asunder... what is the landing protocol on a dead ship?

(To be continued.)

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————
This was original written in General Chat inspired by a thread: "I hope SC will have intrigue and even just a touch of horror..."

@SlashRaid – Was this the place you were mentioning?
@BadDawg – Is this a better venue?


I'm not sure whether to keep this story all to myself as the writer... I have a few ideas on where it is going.

The thread of "I hope SC will have intrigue and even just a touch of horror..." was just that and it was a forum thread which garnered all positive responses! People all want some suspense thrown into their space adventuring. I know that "space opera" is something that leaves some cold — with like and dislike painting the corridors with blood. Some like a bit more off-ship story some a bit less.

I think those wanting intrigue and a touch of horror are wanting a bit more...

But it inspired me!

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 2
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    The escape pods were all place as far as I could tell as I flew the length of the ship. It was well and truly coated with the dust from the grinding of the chondrite-roids of the rings and a mix of ice crystals from the other rings.

    Who knows what compounds might be in that mix, but I sure didn't want it in my ship. I'd have to be cautious with my decontamination procedures getting in and out. That would have been so much easier in the JRT. In the 315p, as neat and tidy as the Origin design was, there just wasn't as much room for doing things like getting in and out of “bunny suits”. It is a strange idea, wearing a contamination prevention suit over a full EVA suit, but the idea is to be able to peel it off and leave any contaminates outside the airlock. Why they called them “bunny suits” I hadn't a clue — lost in history, I guess.

    The hangar deck was open to the void on both ends — the end with the doors and the broken off end. That meant that they were launching when whatever happened. The broken end looked like a combination of being cut, twisted, and torn. I remembered seeing something like that somewhere, but couldn't recall quite where. That thought haunted me.

    “Haunted” as bad a word as “body” out here... sure enough no sooner had I thought the word than I slid past two bodies on the hangar deck. I didn't believe in “hauntings”. Either the dead were simply “gone” or they were in the paradise of their choice. I did not believe that any “God” capable of creating a universe would create a place of eternal damnation nor torture living or dead with limbo or tying the soul to any building or person that was still alive.

    I kept telling myself that as my 315 floated through the hangar. The only ships in it were three in the maintenance bays in pieces. The rest were all gone. I wondered what percentage of the crew could abandon a carrier if they couldn't use the escape pods? Many of the fighters were one man jobs, but in a pinch if you didn't mind crowding... how long could the life support handle the extra burden of an extra bod.... life on board. People think it is just space that you have to think about. The 300 series has room to carry seats for 2 or even 4 extra passengers if you forgo cargo. The thing is that each of those people have to breath, eat, drink, and evacuate. People aren't just self loading cargo.

    I wonder if it was worse to be on a ship after life support fails if you are alone or with others. Do you have one last party with the best rations and drink before the heat and air are used up and you get too dodgy to enjoy them? How many use their side-arms to avoid a lingering death, not knowing most people botch up a suicide attempt. Even trying to blow out your brains often just leaves you with a shattered jaw, perhaps missing an eye...

    Those thoughts were not exactly what I wanted to be thinking about going into this half hulk.

    What I really wanted to do was get to engineering or the bridge and try get access to some log or message or flight recorder that might say what happened. Then mark my claim well enough that I could get back with salvage rights. Basically that meant knowing how to get back with a salvage team before anyone else found the place.

    There didn't seem to be any reliable gravity anywhere on the hangar deck. A few pocket eddies of residual gravity field that just complicated my poking about in my ship. They'd be a nuisance without the ship, but shouldn't be a problem outside the ship. Even if I fell and did a face-plant my helmet visor was rated to take armour piercing shells so I should be safe from the worst 1G fall to a deck plate if I were sailing down a corridor that was otherwise at microgravity.

    The permanent glow in the emergency marker paint in the ship cast eery shadows, or nearly cast shadows. I kept my own lighting to near minimum so as not to ruin my night vision. But the shadows were spooky. I had long since tuned the cabin lighting to a cheery cherry red in preparation to an excursion into the probably darkened interior of the ship.

    It took a while to get the bunny suit on over the EVA suit but worth it. The bunny suits were disposable and I had a case of them — perhaps a half dozen. I still hadn't discovered the name of either ship. They were too covered in soot. The decks inside were covered with thick layers as well that flew around whenever one of my thrusters fired. I'm just glad I didn't add any oxidizer to whatever was in the mix.

    I finally got out of the ship, locking her down out of habit. I didn't expect anybody. ...I tripped over the hapless desiccated corpse of a corpsman. I had to avoid the “b” word. When I reached the nearest bulkhead by a hatch I could find out just what the name of the ship was. It was “UEE Drake”.

    I knew the Drake was lost with all hands, but that was in a different system though how and why was a mystery.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 3
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    My personal ship the PJRT — or Please, Just Right Turns — hung there, wheels just touching the deck plates, in case for some reason the gravity should come on. The blue, green, and white of my company colours were barely visible through the layer of grime clinging to the Origin 315p.

    I'd have to clear the collectors before this was over. I was glad they were pretty well self clearing even in such circumstance. Still the PJ seemed to be gathering dust like a magnet. Carbonaceous chondrite dust wouldn't harm the ship's finish. It would be an issue if I travelled at too hot a relative velocity through it without any form of shield, but I wouldn't do that. I don't think that would crack a fleet carrier in half either.

    The dust seemed to still be swirling in the hangar as I went through an open bulkhead door. That didn't seem right to me. Even if the hulk was twisting the dust would move more uniformly... all in one direction to the nearest obstacle and then cling or bounce off it — not swirl.

    I had served on smaller vessels than these large carriers, but there were similarities to the designs of all the UEE naval ships. I made my way to the bridge. Going to engineering meant going away from windows. It also meant more chance of sealed compartments and sealed compartments meant more chance of... something worse than I had met up with.

    o o o

    I'd once gone out in an Aurora fitted out for taxi duty. That meant that it was set up with two passenger seats and additional life support. It meant that not much freight other than baggage could be handled, but there was regular money to be had.

    The problem was that a pirate shot first and scanned after. He disables our engine and then scanned us and didn't find the booty he was after. He wasn't after slaves so he was off without a wave of his hand.

    That left us on the far end of a jump point with no delta vee in a disabled Aurora.

    I considered not patching the crack in the cockpit glass so the pressure would slowly leak out and we might die in our sleep rather than perhaps starve. I wasn't sure if the reactor would keep going, The half-life of the fuel might be long, but there might be issues with the energy transfer. We still had power so the life support should still be good until entropy got the consumables. That could be a while. If we ran out of power, then it was CO2 poisoning that would get us, or cold.

    There were some problems. I kept systems going barely, but we joked over who would eat whom and how long we could last in the small cab of the Aurora. As it was it took a week before we were found.

    The crew of the Drake. It seems like many got blown out the split hull. Many could have been in the smaller craft like the fighters, bombers, and auxiliary craft and were somewhere — hopefully shipwrecked on some isolated planet somewhere and not lost in space.

    How many others could there have been sealed in compartments, isolated from others by corridors emptied of air and isolated from EVA suits that would let them traverse vacuum. How many could have been waiting rescue that would not come as they used the oxygen in the room they were in, used the food and water they had, waited as the temperature dropped. How many had sidearms and took that exit. How many tried the old exhale and try cross the vacuum without a suit trick... it works so long as you know what you are doing and where you are going and don't have to go far.

    I'd rather open as few sealed compartments as possible.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 4
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I kept getting this feeling like I was being watched or followed. I would turn around and catch a glimpse of a shadow moving into a doorway or side corridor. I'd feel the hair on the back of my neck raise up in a tingly sensation.

    That pervasive dust seemed to have gotten itself throughout the ship in thick layers. It hung in strange clouds that I had to move through. My lights played strange patterns in it. With the microgravity there was no reason for it to fall as I floated down the corridors only touching the door sills. Most hadn't shut indicating that pressure was the same at both sides when the ship lost pressure. That meant it happened fast. That meant it was catastrophic.

    There was a crewman hanging in a corridor intersection near an open doorway. He probably tried a vacuum crossing. I made sure to give him a wide berth. I brushed the bulkhead as I went by. There was a flash as I did and it was like I was inside a lighting storm. I crashed into the next door frame I had been floating towards, unable to see with my eyes dazed from the light-show.

    I thought my eyes should clear in moments, but it was blacker than ever. Slowly I found I could see the reflection of my face in the extremely faint light of the the telltales inside my helmet. Instinctively I reached up and wiped a thick layer of dust from the outside of my visor. My suit was coated with dust as thick as icing on a kid's birthday cake. The crewman still hung there and not a speck of dust on him, or her. The walls were clear too.

    I moved on up the few decks to the bridge. It would have been nearly impossible for others to access the bridge if it were locked down in an emergency. It seemed like it was sealed. I didn't have any heavy mining equipment or explosives. Of course there were the friend-or-foe missiles on my ship. I didn't feel like cannibalizing them... why did I use the “c” word...

    ...but I didn't need to. There were some perks to being in the research and development arm of the Navy. There were some things that even UEE Advocacy didn't know about. I pressed a few pressure points on the cuff of my suit where a control panel was which could still be accessed through the thin skin of the bunny suit. Then I pressed my gauntlet palm against the pressure sensor beside the door. There wasn't any power to the biometric sensor before I pressed my palm there, but it started to glow after a few moments. The telltales on the door glowed and with the slightest puff, the door slid open.

    I was glad it was only a slight puff and no great gush of air. Actually if the room had been under pressure I would have seen a warning first asking me if I wanted to continue.

    I looked inside and didn't see any dust hanging in the air... or non-air. That was a good sign that perhaps something might be intact. I moved to float inside and it was as if I were tackled by a 90k forward — and I did that face-plant right on the deck-plates inside the door on the bridge.

    Well, my helmet forehead and chin padding did it's job nicely and my nose didn't get smeared against the visor when my helmet hit the deck. The gravity system was still functioning on the bridge. I wish I found out in a slightly less dramatic way.

    The door closed behind me. I got up and noted the dark smear I left on the otherwise pristine deck. I wish I had brought a spare bunny suit with me. I could strip out of this one and have a spare to wear back. A person could reuse one, but it was easier if you didn't have to be cautious about removing it. Still... I looked at the smear, looked at my filthy hands and arms.

    Then it dawned on me... they have emergency lockers on bridges, and even if they evacuated they probably didn't use the bunny suits. I went into the locker and not only were there bunny suits, but on a ship this size a cubical just for putting them on and removing them. There's a procedure to follow to remove them without contaminating your EVA suit. So I swapped my contaminated bunny suit for one from the Drake.

    Now I could investigate the bridge without leaving footprints and hand prints over everything! Of course now if anyone were to enter the bridge, I'd look like the ghost of a Drake crewman.

  • Lakota

    Posts: 24

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    I don't know about any one else, but I am eagerly awaiting part 4.

    Edit: Part 5 even. *derps*
  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Posted:
    Thanks!
    I'm writing them as I go, slipping the time in between my other duties here on the JRT-5 — Just Right Turns 5. I'll probably have another instalment or two within the next duty shift or so. Even the captain of a Freelancer has to take his turn at helm as well as in the rack.
    TTFN

    JRT-5 — Just Right Turns 5 — Juliet Romeo Tango 5
    UEE****NOV13-****-JRT-5
    Registered out of Stevens System MacAndrews Asteroid, MacAndrews Asteroid Depot to Gnomestead Transfer

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 5
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I didn't want to start any equipment onboard that I didn't have to. Otherwise I would have seen if I could get the emergency life support going, or at least lights. Those systems were isolated from the main power. That was something planned intentionally in case of combat damage. In fact the regular systems were design much the same.

    I knew the life support likely didn't cause the ship's damage, but I didn't know what might be in the dust, nor what caused whatever led to the incident. Perhaps something caused the bridge crew to go crazy and that doomed the ship? Maybe somebody brought back some bug from shore leave? That reminded me to make sure I followed bio-hazard protocols to the letter when I got back to the PJ. It would be awkward, but there was no way I wanted to be exposed to any exotic bio-hazard. 315p's were comfy but were very cozy. I wanted to leave anything like that outside the “Please, Just Right Turns”.

    I went about my work. I pondered which station to try first: XO, First officer, perhaps Commander? I decided to first look at the Ship Surgeon's bridge station. While there was a sick bay on a carrier, there was always a bridge station tucked away — normally near those emergency lockers where I got the bunny suit.

    The systems were locked down as I expected, but the same software-hardware combination I had which I used to get into the bridge — though not the palm scanner biometric tool — allowed me in. It currently made me a doppelganger for the Ship Chief Surgeon's Personal Assistant. The last record... broken nose. Someone hadn't adjusted their helmet padding right and had a bad fall exiting a microgravity area.

    Gads' I hate coincidence. I seem to be dogged by it.

    There was no mention of anything about the break-up of the ship. It happened too quick for any record by the Ship's Chief Surgeon. Even if the Ship's Chief Surgeon hadn't been on the bridge there'd still be record here. That would probably rule out a crazy crew. There'd be time for a notation by medical staff.

    Next stop the engineering panels. Engineers were a strange lot. They'd hover over their engines for a while and the panels closest to them, then the panels nearest the action on the bridge. They could do nearly everything from nearly any panel in actuality unless they had to actually lift a wrench or logic probe. Some would nearly nurse a thruster from the fuel feed side; or squeeze the Bussard collectors to get every ounce out of them.

    No mention on engineering either. Last things were the boring things telling everyone how they were ready for everything and any problems were routine cosmetic issues.

    The XO's log was pretty much the same. I went on to the First Officer. I have to admit to being a bit methodical and going up the ranks instead of heading straight to the Commander's log.

    The First Officer's log was a bit different. The XO talked about the running of the physical ship* and discipline of the crew. The First Officer referred more to the mission and mission specific issues and how they touched on what the XO and other officers were reporting. He then created synopsis for the Commander. Depending on the ship the Commander might be a mere Captain, a Commodore, or an Admiral. In the case of a carrier like this one, the Commander was an Admiral — Admiral Danial Irwin Andrew Concord. So, Admiral DIA Concord of the UEE Drake.

    I think I heard of that carrier. Though the UEE had launched so very many carriers of late. The Drake was a Siberian Class Carrier — one of the Tiger classes of carrier like the more recent Bengal Class.

    Lt Commander Oleander wrote that they were on a classified mission, looking into the disappearance of one of the new Bengal Class Carriers in the “Wedding Veil” System.

    I had to increase my clearance level to delve deeper.

    I downloaded the mission details and went back to the log.

    Lt Com Oleander wrote that they were preparing to follow the UEE Magellan's presumed course after traversing the Wedding Veil system, and were about to jump. They were heading to more frontier space past the Wedding Veil system.

    Then nothing.

    Then there was nothing.

    Did I mention how I hated coincidence?

    As I was thinking that then there was nothing, I got that tingling feeling starting with the hairs on my neck and followed by the feeling all over my body, before the centre of the screen went black. First with a black blob in the middle, then the whole thing, black!

    ———————————
    * Please note, I am not a military person. I am writing this as a civilian observer mainly. If you wish to complain please feel free to, but if I were to research everything, the story would not get written. I have made that mistake before — researching every detail before writing. That is a flaw as is not writing what you know. However, this is Fantasy and Science Fiction, so do not toss me out an airlock. I am not writing about life on a naval ship in 21st Century Earth.
    If it departs from the RSI gaming Universe, so be it. I have read the writers guide and do at least try to follow that. Sorry for the out-take. But I felt it necessary because I know there are some purists who might feel left out. I need to create some detail where I have no knowledge. If you know the detail, by all means write your own story with all the details correct.
    I mean no disrespect to any people who served in the armed forces or who served.
    I'll be gentle if you say galaxy when you mean solar system or meteor when you mean meteorite.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Posted:
    I had a bit of problems with the text entry last night and have to do some editing yet on the next instalment. In the meantime, here is a postcard from my personal exploration ship, the Please, Just Right Turns:
    PleaseJustRightTurnsPostCard.png
    It shows the crew and me on the tarmac of a cold outpost world that's one of a pair of sister worlds circling each other. They aren't really that cold, but it's a winter shot. The other planet is a super-earth and does tidally lock this one which makes it preferential to live near the poles where you get a more moderate climate.
    BTW When I say crew, I mean the crew of the Just Right Turns - 5, my Freelancer. That's our normal ship for exploration. Also the crew isn't really a group of animals.

  • annmsc

    Posts: 295

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    I like it so far, read 1 and 2
    ps: Hangar :p
  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Good catch @annmsc It's a hard one to pick up on even with proof-reading when coping with a few temporary vision issues. I use a few proof-reading techniques as I'm dyslexic, though at the moment am a bit too dependent on spell check to catch typos... which won't catch homonyms and misused words. It is amazing what can happen with touch typing. Your fingers can type whole words without thought, though more often muscle memory will type out familiar letter combinations like "ing" or "ion". My grammar was excellent in the 80's for word usage, now word usage has gone downhill, but I think my sentence structure has improved greatly.
    Now if I can squeeze out a bit more time I have a bunch of editing on the next instalment... worse than writing. Unfortunately I tried dictating and Dragon Speaking Naturally while a great product, just doesn't like how I capitalize. It also misses how I pronounce a few words... and I have to go back and teach it...

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 6
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    The Wedding Veil system was a close binary system. A white dwarf pulled matter from its red giant companion, absorbing some and flinging the rest into a tenuous but beautiful spiral of glowing gases surrounding the system. There were a few dwarf planets orbiting far from the pair, but nothing worth shouting about — however there were nine jump points in the system.

    The Magellan's course was for a jump point simply numbered “Nine”. Magellan had disappeared sometime after having made a jump the point. The purpose of the mission was somewhere in the details which I had downloaded. The Drake was to follow the Magellan's course and determine circumstances of its disappearance. A Bengal carrier couldn't simply vanish. Even if the Magellan had been destroyed it would leave wreckage. At least this was the reasoning behind the Drake's mission.

    Of course I knew a little bit about how both ships ended up. How they ended up here and in this condition, I didn't know. I wasn't sure if I did want to know. I just knew I didn't want to end up that way myself. I figured I would go and check out the Admiral's station before I left. His logs might have something worth recovering.

    I went to Adm. Concord's station — of course like the other stations there was no power. That was little barrier to me, all the logs were locally stored. I really didn't want the stay to much longer on the bridge after those feelings. It just made me feel like I was watched somehow. Twice now I had that tingly feeling come upon me and each time something unexpected happened.

    I didn't want something unexpected to happen again.

    The hairs on the back of my neck stood up again. Did I mention I hate coincidences?

    All the lights towards the stern end of the bridge started flicker on. That was a neat trick without any power. I entered the bridge through the doors at that end.

    The telltale in my helmet indicated my download of the admirals log was complete. I didn't need any excuse to make a quick exit through the bow doors of the bridge. There was a problem though…

    … when I tried to open the door warning lights came on indicating there was pressure on the other side of the door. I doubted anyone was alive on the other side, but I cringed at what I might find there.

    I was stuck with one of those Lady or the Tiger type problems — or was that Lion or Tiger type problem? Both hatches led to the unknown — one door to a sealed area filled with atmosphere and possibly the horrors of horrific death, but long dead. The other door closed between me and something able to darken computer screens and cause light panels to light up without a power source through closed doors.

    It felt like the choice between corpses and a spectre.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    No more of the story tonight, so here is a picture of Juliet Romeo Tango - 5, my regular ship. Actually I did it up before I did Papa Juliet Romeo Tango with this background on the postcard.
    JustRightTurns5PostCard.png

  • taby

    Posts: 40

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    I like this.
    7+!+U.bl~H=31Yx9A49gHgjd^8!dsnzE-jJlvX2e!`
  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

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    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 7
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I looked for an alternate exit from the bridge and considered blowing the bridge glass. I doubted my sidearm would have touched the armoured transparent metal of the bridge windows even if it were a slug thrower rather than a combination maser-taser. You don't make a star ship with a greenhouse worth of plain glass windows. That would be sillier than using anything less then a crack resistant visor on a suit. Mine was much tougher than that.

    But an exit other than the fore or aft hatches would be nice. Looked to see if there was a high bay, or a hatch to a lower deck. There was nothing obvious above or below. Their was a mezzanine, but looked like it just got the traffic control above the heads of the command crew.

    The choice was obvious. Corpses can't hurt you.

    I broke a glass panel and pulled the intentionally difficult to pull handle which broke the seal. I stood a bit to the side so any debris and most of any air blast would miss me when the hatch opened. They were designed not to deform out of their tracks as they slid open like these did; or blast off their hinges if they were that sort. Loose papers and other light material flew into the room and there was a brief “whoosh” before the pressure once more was so low that sound wouldn't carry.

    The pressures equalized once more at near zero. The compartment beyond wasn't that large — a short corridor and another hatch. I suspected there was atmosphere on the other side of that hatch too. If I shut the hatch I had just opened, the corridor might not fill with air like an airlock, but when I opened the second hatch all the air beyond would not be lost — the pressure would just lower a bit depending on the size of the room beyond.

    I wasn't sure of any benefit to that, but if there was one, it would be permanently lost if I didn't take advantage of shutting the hatch behind me. So I slid the hatch shut. At least there had been no... I decided not to continue that thought.

    I went to the second hatch and checked. There was atmosphere of some sort beyond.

    I broke the glass and stood aside to pull the lever. There was a whoosh and the corridor filled with the fog of quick atmosphere depressurization. Instinctively my eyes scanned the telltales in my helmet and the HUD read the surface temperatures around me. They were at nearly the effective temperature of the ship — dipping a bit after the pressure drop, but not quickly as thin air transferred heat poorly and the surfaces could only loose what little heat they had by thermal radiation. My own suit had little heat to radiate — not surprisingly, it was meant to control the internal environment and at the moment radiating heat was not a priority.

    Atmospheric pressure was lower than half standard so the compartment had to have already been less than an atmosphere before the small corridor I was in opened. A few subtle finger movements in the gauntlets and my suit could do a bit more than a cursory temperature-pressure check. Atmosphere consisted of... more decomposition gasses than I cared for. I was glad that I had a bunny suit on over my EVA suit. I wouldn't have been tempted to open my faceplate even if pressure or temperature would allow it.

    There was more than just the “smell” of death around. It was a whole “atmosphere” of death. That meant that the ship retained enough heat for the anaerobic bacteria to do their little jobs trying to do the “circle of life” thing. Methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, increased carbon dioxide... and a few other things... Without insect or higher fauna, or even flora, decomposition is a bit different on a ship. Even that stops when the temperature drops. In a vacuum, you get freeze-dried mummies. Nice and clean in their own way, though the anaerobic bacteria are protected for a while by spaceship mummy.

    I forgot myself even as I nearly stepped onto a frozen body. Couldn't tell the gender — thank goodness— the buttons had burst at some time when the body had bloated and the skin had split and burst in places and really I didn't want to look much at it.

    Remember I said I wanted to open as few sealed compartments as possible. This was one reason.

    In a small ship with all power gone, if you have cabin integrity, you probably die of hypothermia before you suffocate, or need to think of water, or food. I say probably because most places you are too far from any star to cook and being at a Goldilocks distance for whatever size ship you are in is highly unlikely. If you die of hypothermia, your core temperature is dropping so likely you will become a frozen mummy even with a ship's atmosphere.

    Another body... I have to stop with the morbid thoughts.

    I'm actually in a corridor. I figure that my best bet is to drop decks and make my way back to hanger deck and then back to the Please, Just Right Turns. I'll have to leave the semi-pressurized compartments at some point, but that will be a relief. The only good thing about these corridors with pressure is that the dust hasn't really penetrated here. They aren't totally dark either. Not cheerfully lit, just the blood red glow of the emergency paint — guaranteed to stay glowing without creating radiation or bio-hazard. Not enough to read by, but enough that you could safely run down the corridor or float down them without crashing into anyone or anything.

    The lights should all be out, LENR packs should be out of fuel by now and conventional batteries would be dead or non-functional in the cold. Of course ship power should be either shut down or out of commission. But, somewhat behind me I keep seeing light panels flicker on and then off. I don't want to stay and investigate. I have a bad feeling about it and I don't like coincidence.

    I find what I am looking for, a hatch leading down. Pressure on the far side. The pressure is higher than on this side of the hatch which in a way is a blessing as the hatch is hinged and swings upwards. It would be hard to swing against a vacuum. This hatch is more mechanical in operation as it is a maintenance hatch. I stand to the side as I complete the last turn. The door swings up violently slamming open on it's hinges. That would have hurt.

    I climb down the ladder and close the hatch behind me. As I expected I'm in a small compartment with doors running fore and aft and another in the floor. The compartment is intended to act as an emergency lock for damage control. There's vacuum beyond the door at my feet. That's fine. I can cope with that. There's a manual valve by the door just for such an occasion. I crack open the valve and the air in this compartment drains into the next equalizing it. I open it and climb down into the twin of the lock I was in. A twin other than the fact that there's no hatch in the floor.

    When I get back to the PJRT I'm going to travel with all the lights ON for a few days! These dark corridors are getting to me.

    One of the hatches leads to a corridor. I can tell by looking through a small port. I can equalize the small pressure difference between the near vacuum and the even closer to vacuum in the corridor. The corridor is filled with dust. Dust clings to the walls and also hangs in the middle of corridor in strange sheets and wispy cord-like forms. I know it is something like the shapes of gas clouds, not some strange space creat... nope not going to think that.

    The dust is a dea.... is a give-away that there's no gravity in the corridor. So I'm prepared as I cross the threshold.

  • JAP

    Posts: 141

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Cool story bro. It reminds me a little of when I watched Event Horizon.... Just freaky....

    If we have a mission like this in the game, it'll be awesome.
  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    We probably won't to begin with at least since basically it is a first person shipboard adventure. But... I promise an interesting end, if only... well, that would be telling.
    And in a thousand words. If you didn't know, I love image editing so here is an image I cobbled together. It qualifies as fan art for sure since I use ship images from the games with some space art I have put together from the web. (Making sure it was stuff I could remix.) It would make for an interesting cover for the story.
    TwinTigers800.png
    I call it:
    Twin Tigers

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 8
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I have to travel through the dust in the corridor to move down it. Of course as I go the bunny suit gets coated with the stuff. The dust isn't very thick, but it's there. I have to wipe my visor fairly often, but there are wipes just for that which seem quite good at clearing the bunny suit visor — some sort of micro fibre material. It uses the natural electrostatic charge that builds up when you wipe one thing against another. You can toss it or simply wash it. Water neutralizes the charge.

    The corridor is long and as I float down I notice moving shadows in front of me. I was used to some of moving shadows just from the lights on my helmet shining through the bunny suit's transparent front; and my strapped on lights on my arms and calves.

    Don't laugh at the calf: You come in for a touch-down after having been spun around by debris in micro-g. You're flailing your arms around to try stabilize yourself for hitting the target — and you want to get your leg between you and whatever you are landing on... even if it is the jaw of some Neanderthal cyborg in a space suit. One of your calves is gonna be on target.

    A tight beam will also tell you how far away that target is if you have one on each leg and you get used to such things. Anyway, none of those lights make a shadow of me — not on the wall in front of me — and the emergency paint on the wall doesn't make enough of a glow to make shadows like that either.

    I thumb off the helmet lights with a gesture in my glove and twist to look behind me. I catch a flicker of movement of a shadow but I also catch a glow panel in the ceiling flicker on and then off and then another one closer to me flickers into life.

    I make haste down the corridor putting the rest of my lights on auto dim and bring up the IR and night vision. The night vision will auto correct for any flashes of light behind me. I berated myself for not having it on from the beginning. The IR was near useless in the cold of the ship, but it would tell me if there were any warm bodies... poppycock. Why'd I use that word.

    I made my way toward the end of the long corridor with short calculated jumps. The ship I was stationed on only had two flights of fighters on it and no fly-through hanger. We entered and exited The Lion Fish from a hanger in the rear. We didn't have all the luxuries of these big carriers, but we had our perks. The Lion Fish flew non-standard equipment out to the big-boys and serviced it as necessary. That's why we needed our own small escort of fighters. We needed a ship just big enough for that and to fend for itself and not so big as to draw attention when it sometimes left a fleet.

    I still seemed to be being tailed and the IR was still near useless. What I saw looked more like cosmic rays in a cloud chamber. Just quick trails of light through the dust. If there was any atmosphere and any humidity perhaps it could be trails in a cloud chamber. But it was desiccated vacuum in here with just a touch of dust and crap.

    Whatever it was seemed to be gaining on me, but I wasn't sure it could actually see me. I decided to quickly duck into a side room, better a corridor with a blast door.

    I spotted one. The genius in R&D who developed the emergency paint for the Navy worked hard to make sure it came in different colours — even under IR scopes or night vision. It made the blast door of the side passage easy to spot. I vectored to it and hit the door stop with UEE Naval micro-g trained reflexes killing my motion. There was a trick to using your legs to kill your velocity without bouncing back the way you came. Anyhow I could do it in my sleep. Which was useful and allowed me to start opening the hatch almost before I had stopped moving.

    My training was drilled in enough that I wasn't in the way of the swinging hatch driven by air pressure. But, I wasn't expecting to be tackled!

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    I couldn't work on the story today so here is a bit of space art I did last year. One of my early attempts at a ringed planet.
    27Jovianringed.png

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 8
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    The surprising impact of the frozen corpse pushed me across the corridor even as I realized what was happening.

    I shoved it away, looking back down the corridor. The lit section had moved closer to me. The atmosphere that blew out the port indicated a fairly small section before the next sealed hatch. The paint indicated it wouldn't be a dead-end... I have to stop worrying about superstition. They create themselves.

    Down the hatch. I check my suit's HUD to see if the built in MOBIglass has the layout of a Siberian Class carrier on it. I doubted it, otherwise I would be seeing helpful hints as I plied my way. The ship link should have been supplementing it, but I hadn't seen a peep from the ship's conciergeAI since I left it.

    “conciergeAI” is just an upgraded interface for the ship's computer. Like most non-utilitarian systems on a ship, basically it's an overgrown search routine. It listens for what you ask or imply and tries to facilitate it. You say, I'm hungry and it checks what's on the menu and what's in the galley or stores. “conciegeAI” also has entertainment value in how it complies. With additions it interfaces with utilities and equipment you use and it learns what you need. I also create my own additions. It can be great company especially when you know how to joke around with it.

    We get a bit spoiled by instant communications, even while we have got used to the delays caused by the speed of light. We adjust to “c-lags”. Our ships compensate for the large part with the communications systems predicting what information we might be wanting and locating it before we ask for it. The storage capacities we take for granted are phenomenal. Unless you are getting your clothes off the back of some farmer's sheep you have memory woven right into the very fabric you wear. In any case you are still tethered to a network for many things.

    You notice it when you are not connected.

    I was noticing it right now.

    I thought I could be heading toward the hangar, but I could be on the way to the galley. If you knew the ship you could find your way by the colour coding of the emergency paint. Different colours meant different departments, but different commanders liked to change how things were organized. I preferred things to be standardized... so did everyone else, but to their own standard!

    Still there were patterns and I think I figured this ship's. So either I was going to find the hangar soon... or frozen food. At least these corridors were clear of dust and the colours in the emergency paint easy to see. It was a relief to be out of the dust.

    Even though there was nobody around, the suit comm system was always on in passive mode. The HUD made me aware that there was a growing increase in signal strength on the analog noise bands. Noise reduction automatically filtered out such things. I switched off the filter and immediately heard a howling noise. The directional aspect of the pickups translated it to my sound system and I could tell it was from behind me. I turned and regretted what I thought out loud about the dust.
    Behind me under a softly glowing ceiling panel was a shadowy mostly shapeless form in the dust. It was more a vertical vortex of spinning dust than any humanoid figure you'd expect at any haunting. Too far away really to be sure, but I had more impression of a plump moving tornado that had no top but two bottoms. I'd complain to the department of spooks later.

    I increased my speed away from this spectacle. A bit more hustle, a bit less caution, though in a vacuum you always needed that safety factor. Where was that hangar!

    Then I saw the unmistakable symbol for the passages leading to the hangar deck. The implication was strong. Anyone passing this way had better be prepared for the possibility they'd encounter hard vacuum, loud noises, and other things that could be hard on an unprepared person. I'd be back in the PJRT in no time even if I had to don an emergency bio-hazard baggy over the bunny suit.

    Just a few more turns and the Please, Just Right Turns would be there, lightly bouncing on her tires in microgravity.

    The next few hatches were simple to open. There was no appreciable pressure differential. I was surprised of no indication that my suit network connected with the PJ already. The howl from the vortex thing was subsiding. Perhaps that this ghost had problems going through closed hatches?

    Ahead, the final door to the hangar! I knew it was in vacuum, though full of that dust. I opened the hatch and quickly shut it behind me looking up and down he length of the hangar.

    There was no sign of the Please, Just Right Turns! I even turned my suit lights on to check.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 9
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I quickly turned and closed the hatch behind me just in case the spectre should get through the other hatches and catch up to me. I took a few moments to gather my senses. My ship shouldn't just float away and I should have noticed if the Drake had shifted enough for the PJ to get tossed out.

    I didn't have the plans of the Drake or general plans for the Siberian Class Carriers in my Suit memory system. I could however try pull up mu suit's sensor record of my travels. It came up, but there was a 5% error probability in position due to sensor instability. When I queried the system it just came up that there were a number of times when there were sensory drop-outs. There were places where the sensors cut out completely or gave unreliable readings and the suit had to rely on inertial sensor readings which are somewhat unreliable with the changing g-fields. That gave the 5% error.

    In any case I noted that I could be as much as 30 metres above and 250 metres longitudinally away from the ship — though latitudinally right on. I realized that both ends of the hangar were closed even — in the distance — while I flown in through the open rear hangar doors of the Drake. The front of the main hangar deck of the Drake was open to space where the ship had been torn asunder. This must be the upper flight deck. It didn't extend forward much past the bridge and both fore and aft hangar doors must be shut. The Please, Just Right Turns must be parked somewhere below on the main hangar deck.

    I was used to the smaller Lion Fish with only a single hangar deck. It had a maintenance bay reached by elevator lift, and I recalled that the hangar decks on these carriers were connected with lifts. I didn't really feel much like traversing the corridors of this dead ship any more.

    The damage was to the bow of the Drake so I headed aft to look for a working lift. I travelled quickly, but carefully, keeping close to the deck as I recalled the eddying gravity on the main deck. I skidded face first down the deck-plates in the first eddy I found, and reconsidered that idea. I was too close to the deck to make a correction when I hit an area with partial gravity, though I only fell a quarter metre. Would I have fared better from a metre up with a chance to get my legs under me? I would give that a try if I hit another area of microgravity.

    The gravity actually held the rest of the way, though it wavered from ¼ g to 1¾ g. I was very glad I did high-g extended training during longer flights. Basically where some pilots turned their gravity setting to zero or a low setting while cruising, I used a gravity calisthenic program. Part of the flight was at higher gravity levels to toughen the body and keep the muscles and reflexes toned — while there were sessions of microgravity to keep the zero-g combat skills intact.

    Still even with my calisthenics I wasn't too sure about a leap down the lift to the next level down. The lift was large enough to handle ships larger than hornets — probably large enough to handle modest bombers. There were no ladders down the sides of the shaft to make things simple. I looked for the man access that had to be nearby. Normally crew and pilots would travel with the ships — but I knew that they wouldn't run the huge lift just for a single crewman or pilot.

    Before I had a chance to look much, I got this familiar tingly feeling and all the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It seemed that lights started flickering on all across the hangar at the far end!

    I turned and saw a series of huge dark shapes forming under the subdued glow panels at the far end. They begin a methodical cruise towards me. The shapes didn't seem to be very hampered by the uneven grav fields either. I looked quickly for a hatch leading to a gangway down, or an access hatch down. It had looked like the lift were 20 metres down and that was too far for me to even think of leaping.

    Finally I found the hatch I sought and I bounded for it hoping the grav fields would hold. Luckily they did and I got through without any pressure issues opening the hatch either. I shut the hatch behind me as I slid down the ladder behind the hatch. I went down 5 or so metres before reaching a bulkhead hatch in the floor. There was blood and gore caught in the mechanism, but I could open it ignoring the fingers that had been crushed when it last closed.

    When I opened the hatch there was no sign of the hand or the crewman who it belonged to other than a smear of blood leading down the shaft, now a frozen trail. There was dust in the tube I had to plough through. On the way down the dark tight confines of the shaft I noted how my passage created small arcs of sparks through the clouds of dust. It reminded me of when taking off a knit sweater in the dry conditions you get in some places when they heated outside air in a cold climate. In the dark you could see static charges arcing over the surface of the knitted material.

    The dust heralded the fact that the hangar level hatch was open. I cautiously looked through and spied the PJ somewhat over 200 metres down the hangar from me. That was a huge relief! In the distance I could see open space... well the dusty space of the rings in any case. I started getting intermittent signals from the ship as well. I was surprised at the poor quality of the signal considering I had line of sight.

    I knew the grav fields were fairly consistently off around where I parked the PJ so I kicked off towards it fairly directly. Perhaps I was too relieved at seeing it because as soon as my feet left the deck I felt that tingling again.

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 10
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I didn't have a reaction pistol on me so I was committed to heading at the PJ's starboard hatch. I hoped Julie's stronger comm centre could punch through whatever interference seemed to be present.

    “Julie, can you hear me? Wake up!”

    “Gnome, Reading you — broken packets, but understandable.”

    “Julie, prepare for emergency bio-hazard entry. I'm coming in hot. Keep depressurized, prep starboard hatch for entry. I'm in a UEE standard issue Naval bio-hazard suit. Prepare to double wrap and have the exit solution ready.”

    “Affirmative Gnome, confirming — Preparing for emergency bio-hazard entry. Starboard hatch prepared with double-wrap and exit solution for unwrapping at ready. Preparation as required for UEE standard issue Naval bio-hazard suit coming off of your EVA armoured suit. Depressurization of main cargo area of Papa Juliet Romeo Tango is confirmed and to be maintained until further orders received and confirmed by prearranged coded pass-code.”

    “Affirmative Julie. Gnome is coming home. Hot chocolate, mini-marshmallows, vanilla and chocolate sprinkles please.”

    “...and a short shot of... cherry brandy today, I think.”

    “That will be fine Julie.”

    Julie was a fine concierge. She didn't have any real arms to fluff my pillows with, though she could give a very relaxing shoulder massage through the pilot's chair. She also knew how to run the drink dispenser and was better than average at prepping any pre-prepared food in the galley.

    There'd be time for me to get into the ship before those “spectres” reached us. Whether I could get out of the bunny suit and bio-hazard baggy and into the cockpit before that was another question.

    “Julie, when I'm on-board: button down the hatches; power up thrusters, station keeping; raise gear; and shields up on minimum setting. Gnome authorization 'Hi Ho Jellybean' for running shields and thrusters in hangar.”

    “Acknowledged kimosabi.”

    The hatch on the PJ opened as I arrived and I checked my forward momentum with my boots against the hull. I rolled into the transparent film that was stretched against the opening and was enfolded into it much like a Deli sandwich as the clam-shell doors of the hatch closed over me. The film sealed around me and the suit, and clung tight against me as the hatch closed. I made sure my arms and legs were not tight against my body so that simple cuts by a knife hanging from the hatch could loosen them for free motion.

    I could feel the station keeping kick-in and the faint click as the landing gear nested into their fairings. It was a bit awkward attaching the solvent strips that would eat through the bunny suit and transparent layers now covering it while not breaching the seal. Finally I created the opening allowing me to slide out without contaminating the ship. It could be done fairly quickly if you didn't intend on wearing the bunny suit again. I checked the cargo compartment for dust and before packaging the suit and film into a resealable container that would be kept quarantined in a special bin.

    Julie presented the view outside the ship onto my HUD in my suit. The shapes were almost upon us. There was energy arcing through them and between them and I saw two of them merge into a larger one. There had been perhaps five when I first saw them but now there were three.

    I pressurized the cargo bay and prepared to enter the cockpit as they reached the ship.

    “BAM!” The ship shook and there was a shrieking in my helmet sound system!

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 11
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    The shriek in my helmet tuned down almost immediately to something bearable before my ears had a chance to start ringing. The ship was shaking and I had felt it move before the inertia-dampeners and station-keeping kicked in to counter whatever forces were hitting the ship. Now I could only tell the ship was being shaken by the view coming through my HUD.

    The ship was stable enough for me to enter the cockpit and turn tail to sit in the pilot seat. I pivoted the seat to face forward as the 5 point harness slipped into place for me to buckle. Most times I flew with my helmet in a holder above the head rest, but not under general quarters.

    “Action Stations Julie!”

    “Affirmative Master. Shields set at maximum for close quarters. All systems green. All bulkheads sealed reducing cabin pressure to minimum, increasing gravity to areas other than cockpit to 29.8 metres per second squared.”

    “Master: Extreme electrostatic field detected. Egress at present time inadvisable. Dropping of shields inadvisable. Due to hangar location, use of main thruster inadvisable, use of ram-scoop inadvisable, use of missile ordinance inadvisable. Main thruster, ram-scoop, and missile ordinance are still available. Radio Frequencies inaccessible.”

    “Reports confirmed Julie, I can see them on the screens and helmet HUD, switching helmet HUD to automatic sleep so I can use the ship systems. And what's with the 'Master'? Have you been watching 'I Dream of Genie' again?”

    “Sorry Gnome. No it was 'Doctor Who' — another 20th century 2D entertainment. I think K-9 is cool. One of the best companions.”

    “Julie. Don't use 'Master' — if people heard, they'd get the wrong impression and think I was into slaving. Too many Freelancers have too much walking cargo.”

    “Understood Sir.”

    “Well, that's a bit better Julie. Remember, I didn't call you 'PJ'.”

    I looked at the screens and double-checked everything. It was a whopping static field we had built up. I was glad that it was the shield playing capacitor and not the ship, but I didn't know why there was such a charge differential between the ship and this phenomena... the spectres.

    “Any ideas on getting rid of this positive charge we seem to have built up in the ship? ...other than dropping the shield or opening a port and sticking a soup ladle out.” I queried Julie.

    “Firing a missile could do it by grounding the ship with a resistive current path allowing a moderated discharge. Using Meson blasters on pulse mode inadvisable as shield rotation to allow meson pulse through shield could allow for electron transfer. The meson blaster on stream mode would allow for plasma reflux which would conduct quick discharge causing probable damage beyond hardened EMP protection of systems. An alternative is the secondary beam weapon system using lasers to ionize some material outside of the ship somehow giving it a charge to make it more attractive than the ship. One more alternative, finding a resistive material in the external environment and using the tractor beam to pull it to the ship allowing an acceptable discharge rate. This is assuming discharge is desired and the causal source is something that won't take advantage to access the ship or do damage to it.”

    Julie had laid out a number of options though only two seemed reasonable options.

    “Julie for the present see if you can locate any sort of suitable resistive material in the hangar. Perhaps the maintenance bays?”

    “Affirmative Sir. It might take a while. The sensors are dodgy with the outside interference. Harmonics of the static arcing in the vicinity are effecting a broad spectrum with their discharges. I'm also plotting an emergency exit course based on scans made when we entered in case all sensor input is blocked and we have to leave quick and blind.”

    The PJ is a good ship. I think that the Juliet concierge I've modded into her is a big part of it. Juliet is a self modifying program intended to grow based on enquiry, interaction, and data acquisition. Growth Using Enquiry, Interaction, and Data Acquisition... GUEIDA would have been a horrid acronym. Could I rearrange the words for Guide... Growth Using Interaction, Data acquisition, and Enquiry? Better...

    “Commander, permission to move to maintenance bay location? Purpose to ascertain location of previously mentioned resistive materials.”

    “Permission granted.” I couldn't see all the way to the nose of the 315 through the combination of the dust clinging to the cockpit windscreen and the whirling dust and arcing electrical show around us. Apparently Julie could see enough to navigate.

    Julie projected on the ship HUD a wire-frame schematic of the hangar and items in it based on previous scans apparently combined with the current sensor input. It did help make sense of what was happening.

    “Julie can you use a Hall probe and EMF scan to determine resistive values of the materials in the maintenance bay?”

    “Negative Commander. Not through this interference and the electrostatic field. I'll be basing my findings on the previous scan as we entered and UEE Standards for Shipboard equipment and supplies.”

    “Anything that works Julie.”

    It seemed like an eternity but it was only a minute or two.

    “Commander! I have found just the perfect solution to our problem!”

  • taby

    Posts: 40

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Ooh, liking it.
    7+!+U.bl~H=31Yx9A49gHgjd^8!dsnzE-jJlvX2e!`
  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Edited: by Gnome
    Posted:
    Edited:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 12
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    “Continue Juliet.”

    “There are three Hornet's in various stages of disrepair in the maintenance bay. One's drive system is open exposing the cores of the fusion system. If we connect a conductor between the cores and our hull, the cores will provide the impedance necessary to provide a controlled discharge. I'll work out the positioning so as to allow for our capacitance and the conductor location to allow for the quickest allowable discharge. I warn you it will be impressive looking. I do not know the effect on the phenomena whirling about the ship however.”

    “Great work Julia. Do you have a conductor in mind? I am assuming we'll grab it with the tractor beam?”

    “Actually Sir, there is no need. We simply have to extend our grounding probe to one of the engine core's power terminals. Standard landing protocol for atmospheric landings require grounding upon touching down on any carrier or non-planetary base. Since there was no formal protocol we slipped up. We will be disseminating the need for one on the network; for landings on derelicts in planetary rings, dense dust, or gas clouds.”

    “Well as they say in that other 19th century 2D Entertainment that you like... 'War Trek'? Make it so!”

    I let Julie do the fine manoeuvring as it was tight quarters with the shields on and next to nil view and sensor input. If intuition was needed, I'd step in, but this was something else. Julie was avoiding bumping into tool benches and debris while positioning the grounding probe's port location so that it would be in the right place. Then we had to polarize it so that it could pass through the shields and directly contact the Hornet engine core before discharging anywhere else.

    All this time those dust dervishes twirled around the Please, Just Right Turns. Finally we were in position. I am not sure if it was necessity or planning, but it seemed we were backed into the maintenance bay and probably pointed to an exit.

    “Gnome Sir, we are ready. I have to warn you, this might get a bit intense. I'm going to polarize the canopy partly in advance.”

    “That sounds intense Julie. I was hoping to see the fireworks.” I responded a bit disappointed at the thought of missing a unique show.

    “Sir, you'll see plenty, but this way you'll also see later without having to buy cyber-eyes or some vat grown replacement retinas. ...though with cyber-eyes you might not need the HUD. Our electro-skin and canopy polarization systems probably won't react fast enough, so we bend our knees for the bump coming up.”

    It is like rotating the shield strength at the last minute to double it on the side a missile is going to hit when your countermeasures fail. Some of us call it “bending your knees”. I believe it was a riding term from days of riding horse and off-road vehicles that you operate while standing. You bent your knees to take the shock as you went over a bump or hole. It actually works. Try it in your hangar buggy.

    “Record the whole event for posterity Juliet. And Go For it! The Gnome needs his hot chocolate, mini-marshmallows, vanilla and chocolate sprinkles.”

    “...and orange brandy this time Sire!”

    ...Sire?...

    “Engaging probe, Now!”

    There was a “Crackle-Boom” that rattled the ship and my teeth and despite the polarized canopy the interior of the 315 lit up like we were in close orbit to a main sequence blue star. The light alone made the temperature in the cockpit raise a Kelvin degree or two. Still I could see the source of the light-show through the canopy. For the most part the “lightning” focused on the Hornet. It was an intense blue-white with hints of red creating purple highlights. Then an “aura” of greens and reds formed around the Hornet. Shadows fleeted around both the Hornet and the PJ. Then the aura spread over the PJ as well and then that “Crackle-Boom”!

    It was Julie that broke the silence.

    “Wow.”

    “Uh... Yah, Wow! That was some show.”

    My vision cleared and I saw the hangar was relatively intact other than bits of Hornet spread around the bay — even sprinkled over the hulks of the two other Hornets in the bays.

    ...and it dawned on me...

    I could see the entire length of the hangar to the entrance!

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 13
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I'm not sure how long I sat there before the ship interrupted.

    “Sir, I'm sure the hot chocolate must be done by now.”

    “What? ...oh... yes... That was impressive.”

    “Which sir? The electrical arcing, the aurora, the dust devils, or the current absence of dust?”

    “Well, all of them combined, but really the relative disappearance of the dust. I know it had to go somewhere, but it's gone from sight. It's a shame the energy had to go to waste Julie.”

    “Actually, although the energy released in a short period was substantial, it would not power our engines very long at all. It was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sensors are mostly up now within the confines of the hangar so I am scanning for the location of the dust.”

    “That started with a scan of our ship first didn't it Jules? Are we good to go? No clogged scoop or thrusters, wind-shield washer fluid topped up and that sort of thing? Are you preoccupied?”

    “Apologies Sir, I was following up on the sensor readings ensuring safety of the ship as the ship was still in the green. There appears to be no appreciable clogging of the external ports of our ship beyond normal. Other than expected passing through the rings to get here. The Ship is almost spotless as far as my sensors can tell. It is as if we had gone through a touch-less ship-wash.”

    “Julie, gently move us out into a position where we have a clear run at either the hangar doorway or the broken opening. Make that whichever you think is least likely to be closed if things go toes-up. I know you'll keep in mind the grav plates that you found were still functioning.”

    “Affirmative Gnome. I make that the fractured open end of the hangar deck. If someone can operate the hangar doors, they can potentially come down as we are clearing them and I want to keep my tail feathers intact.”

    “Any sign of the missing dust?”

    “I think I have located a large percentage, up to 90% of it — we don't know the actual total. Sending an image of the Hornet engine core in the maintenance bay we just left to the ship's HUD.”

    The ship's canopy shimmered and in front of me appeared a holographic image of what was behind us. It showed a vaguely Hornet shaped lump that looked like something out of a school science lab. You might remember the ones where they were demonstrating the fundamental forces of the universe. In this case magnetism. It looked like the Hornet was covered with iron filings and the Hornet had a strong magnetic field. The dust wasn't as black as iron filings, but it had the same effect.

    “Julie, where'd the magnetic field come from?”

    “Gnome, those aren't magnetic field lines you are seeing the dust aligning to. Those are electrical field lines. You might be remembering demonstrations with iron filings and magnetic fields. You might also recall similar demonstrations with seeds and electrostatic fields. If you create a static charge on a rod and place it under a sheet and scatter very small seeds on it, they will create similar patterns to those of iron filings in a magnetic field.”

    “I always forget about that, Julie.”

    There were demonstrations of other fundamental forces but they were later our education system than the grammar school ones of electromagnetism and gravity. We didn't do nuclear reactions until I was nearly 11.

    I sensed a shifting in the force, as evidenced by movement in the dust around the Hornet.

    “Julie, I think I want to do more contemplation on the situation from the relative safety of open space. Move us out of here... clean as an arrow slow at first on manoeuvring thrusters then when we've cleared half the distance bring on the main, at manoeuvring thrust. Keep the Hud engaged on that Hornet 1/3 screen size. Engage on my mark.”

    “Affirmative S..”

    “Mark!”

    Julie kept the Hornet on screen reducing it so that it took up one third of the corner of the canopy area leaving the rest open to the forward view as we moved forward towards the opening. As we moved forward I watched as the shape of the Hornet seemed to soften. It seemed like it enlarged as well and became slightly diffuse.

    “Julie how are you modifying the view on the Hornet? Are you allowing it to change with range or magnifying to compensate?”

    “Gnome, I'm magnifying to compensate. It should be the same visual size as it was when we started pulling away.”

    Inertial Dampeners and Internal Gravity kept me from feeling the motion of the PJRT through the hangar even as we accelerated. I could see the hangar moving quickly by past the canopy, but the was stationary in the HUD behind the Hornet. The Hornet was getting larger even while losing cohesion.

    “Is that Hornet following us?”

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 14
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    “Checking.”

    “Double-checking”

    “Answer is negative with reservations Sir.”

    “No Sir, the Hornet is not following us. Yes, it appears the dust that was clinging to the static fields around the Hornet is now accelerating towards us. I am unsure if it will continue to close on us as we continue to accelerate. Permission to increase acceleration and what limits?”

    The dust loomed ominously in the HUD's aft field of view. “Whatever acceleration you can give us safely Jules. I'm strapped in tight for whatever the inertia-dampeners can't handle.”

    Even with the dampeners working I could feel the kick as the “balls went to the wall”. Then the afterburners kicked in. It is interesting how the term “afterburners” was still kicking around so long after we'd stopped using kerosene burning turbo jets. But we still had something that did that job and it had that title. They gave some kick to the push the main thruster could put out. It did suck fuel and so you couldn't run afterburners for long.

    We popped out of the hangar like a cork out of a bottle of shook-up root beer. I noted with a little satisfaction that the dust monster behind us had the look of a dark grey doughnut with the hole our exhaust pushed through it. Perhaps I was hasty, but there was no indication it was anything but dust. I just didn't want to be in it.

    Of course I was in it now.

    I mean — the rings were full of dust.

    “Julie, any idea what that thing was?”

    “I believe it was simply charged dust following a build-up in static field. Although we neutralized our charge on the Hornet — when we moved, we moved to an area where we were relatively a different potential charge and so attracted the dust. It is worse when you move through the dry dust as slowly you build up a charge on your surface until you can discharge it on a grounded item. Until then the charge builds and you become attractive to items that are of an opposite charge.”

    “So Jules, the strange movements were dust moving in stray fields of static charge? It explains the glow panels lighting up.”

    “Sir, the carriers have been moving through this dust quite a while and I still haven't been able to ascertain the state of their reactors. Some may even have been running a while in unattended mode until the auto-shutdown kicked in. That might have complicated things.”

    Julie continued, “The catastrophic hull failure also would have triggered safeguards in the ships' electrical systems; isolating them causing local blocks to become electrically isolated from each other. That means that each block could have a different charge from its neighbour. If you pass from one block to another, you could carry a very different charge with you. It is lucky you didn't get fried even in a non-conductive suit.”

    I considered that and made sure to keep that in mind next time I entered a derelict.

    “Julie, do you think that there are any precautions mentioned anywhere on this sort of thing in any regulation or safety manual?”

    “No Sir, I think we might be the first to run into it. Although it might explain a few ghosts sighted on a few salvage operations in various ring systems. That includes those around planets and stars or similar dusty microgravity situations. It would surely be worthy of reporting.”

    “Perhaps we can hold off just long enough to record salvage rights. Julie?”

    “I think, probably we can legitimately... we are out of communications in any case.”

    “I also want to look into the Commander's log entries if they survived. I am not sure about entering the Magellan just yet. Depending on the Commander's log, it might not be necessary and we might want a better prepared team.”

    The Commander's log was downloaded into my suit's system. Actually not the suit's system proper, but a quarantine module totally isolated from the rest of the system. That was just in case there was some sort of IT bug involved. I off-loaded the Drake data into an equally quarantined area on the PJ. Then I constructed monitored interlink to it after duplicating it. The data seemed intact despite any static spectre hooliganism.

    Normally I read books from start to finish without jumping to the end. This time I went to the last entries of the captain. I can't explain how I got through the encryption and why I can read such documents and IT. There are UEE Oaths of Secrecy involved and even acknowledging that is more than I should. However...

    Captain's Log UEE Drake: We have entered the Wedding Veil System on a recovery-rescue mission. There is scant hope that we might rescue the UEE Magellan and her crew which went missing after passing through a Jump Point in this system. While it is well known that the Wedding Veil System has more than its share of Jump Points with five commonly known ones and three less commonly known ones — the three latter of no known value and difficult passage — there is a ninth Jump Point. This ninth Jump Point leads to a star system deep behind REDACTED lines.

    As you can tell, being able to place capital ships in a system so far behind enemy lines would be a huge coup. Even more the coup in that this system has Jump Points leading to systems with links to other parts of REDACTED Empire. The Magellan was to be the first capital ship sent through after this Jump Point had been successfully mapped and travelled many times by our scouts.

    The Magellan jumped and has never been heard from since.

    We are following the Magellan's footsteps and so are going through with the Drake at action stations. All pilots in their ships, all ships at ready for combat in case of any sort of ambush.

    I go now to the bridge. May the Heavens watch over our souls.


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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine Commentary

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 14
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    We hung in the gloomy dust of the rings of this numbered, but not yet popularly named gas giant moment in somber silence. Perhaps there weren't any ghosts on the carrier, but I felt the spirits of their two crews pressing in around me now.

    I had to find out what happened to them.

    “Jules, I think we have to find that other Jump Point.”

    “What other Jump Point Sir?”

    “The one that dumped these two broken tigers here. Think about it. The Jump Point that took us here wasn't the one that brought those ships here and dumped them out. Whether a Jump Point leads from the Wedding Veil system to here or not, may or may not be the case, but a Jump Point must have spat them out after something chewed them up.”

    “That is fairly sound logic, being that no known Jump Point exit is known to be shared. Although the exit points are much more vague than the precise entry points — you exit somewhere within a given volume of space; and those volumes do not intersect with the exit volumes of other Jump Point exits; nor do they intersect with Jump Point entrances. So, it stands to reason there must be in the very least a second Jump Point in this system.”

    “...and that is about as worthwhile knowing as the answer to the riddle of the disappearance of these two carriers. The salvage value is almost coming up in third place other than that being concrete while the other two are something that takes a bit more to earn. Still, registering a new Jump Point... I guess I'd have to name it after the lost ships or their Commanders or something fitting like that, and not after myself. I guess it's only fitting.”

    “It is an honourable recognition of their sacrifices, Sir.”

    “I wish we were in the Just Right Turns and had a full crew to search that Point out.” I said regretfully.

    “It is awkward being both a part of this ship and a part of that one. I am both separate and a part of them. But I don't really exist at all, do I Sir?”

    “I sometimes wonder Julie.”

    “In the meantime, take the best measurements you can of the orbital mechanics of these two ships so we can stake a claim and find them again. There must be some modes of stability or they wouldn't both still be together and relatively intact — even as derelicts. Then let's plot a direct path out of the rings. Perhaps a nice cleansing run through an actual ice ring at a speed that will scrub the hull clean on the way.”

    o o o

    Searching for a Jump Point can take months or years or... you might never find one. But if the ships were dumped out where these rings could catch them, it had to have an orbital association of some sort with this super-jovian. That gave us a leg-up on most Point hunts. Another was knowing one existed. I didn't have the Point sniffing equipment I had on my Freelancer, the Just Right Turns, but the software and hardware I had installed on the Please, Just Right Turns was much more advanced than most point hunters might have on an Origin 315p.

    Just knowing the Jump Point was here counted for a lot!

    “Jules, what are the chances that two ships that torn up might leave breadcrumbs behind?”

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine Commentary

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 15
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    “Breadcrumbs Sir?”

    “I mean a trail Julie. Access an ancient tale called 'Hansel and Gretel'. I mean a tail left behind that might deteriorate over time leading back along the path taken.”

    “...we found the carriers by detecting traces of the relatively rare metals of their construction in the rings of this planet. Perhaps there might be something we can use to trace their path — leading from their exit from the Jump point, to end up here. I know it will be fainter and probably harder to track than tracing a comet from the meteors falling on a planet crossing it's orbit. But, I wondered if it was a possible way to narrow the search. It can take weeks to get places if you know where you are going. But to do a grid search on a cube or sphere many hundred astronomical units across in space...”

    “Sir, we can but hope the birds and squirrels were not too thorough. We can start with a scan of an orbit 'K 9e0 fr8 1dd 88k – Beta 1', or '88k-Beta 1' to see what the path of the carriers through the rings was to determine how fast they drifted through them. That may tell us what sort of speed and direction they were captured at. That will narrow the direction somewhat. At least it might let us know if the Jump Point is in the plane of he ecliptic or not. For the carriers to have been captured I believe that must be the case even before further search simply because it is unlikely that they provided any braking manoeuvres. It looks like passive capture and the capture was duplicated so it is likely the hole is moving in conjunction with 88k-Beta 1.”

    “Julie, would it be a good guess to do a scan for the Jump Point to be somewhere between 88-Beta 1 and it's Lagrange points with 88k-Alpha? I'm thinking it couldn't be further out and it should be closer rather than further.”

    “That is a logical deduction Sir. But I think it worthwhile to take an orbit of Beta before looking further afield. Do I have permission to continue the orbital sniffing scan? The outer rings will have some content similar to the ships which will lead to interesting statistical investigation while we search outwards. That statistical sifting can be done while we search outwards and may save much time in the end.”

    “Logical as always Julie. Permission granted. I am going to wash up and get some sleep while you do it. One orbit should take how long?”

    “I can make it last 9 hours Sir?”

    “That sounds perfect Julie.”

    o o o

    A lot of people don't understand just how much room there is in an Origin 300 series spacecraft. Of course many people will capitalize the word “Craft” as in craftsmanship, but I expected craftsmanship even in my RSI Aurora LX as well. Most people confuse the 300 series with much smaller “old school” military fighters simply because of the simple, sleek, functional lines — which by their nature are also things of beauty. The 300 is larger. It is around two thirds the length of a MISC Freelancer! People don't realize that. That makes for the 315p to be able to have a substantial sized cabin both in the cockpit and immediately behind it for living space and even a cargo area.

    Even of those who see the interior with a person inside, many still have a great misunderstanding of the functional space because, they forget this is a true spacecraft and a one man ship. When you can control the fields of gravity in a vessel, down isn't always down. If you want to take a shower, the foot of the shower needn't be towards the same down as it is when you sleep in your bed or sit in your cockpit chair. Pull out the right case, affix it to the wall with a shower enclosure and hook it to the appropriate life-support connectors and have a steamy hot shower — or pull out a collapsible tub and take a bubble bath. There's only one person for the tub to get in the way of and they are in the tub.

    In any case, after a nice shower to get imagined dust off me, I tucked in for 45-winks — I was very tired.

    o o o

    “Good morning Julie!”

    “Good morning Sir! I know it is morning many places at any moment. We have recorded the data from our orbit and are ready to extend our search. I have a few suggestive directions to take from preliminary data screening already.”

    “Pop it up on the back screen while I have breakfast Julie. I promise not to get bacon grease on it.”

    “Sir you know there is no actual grease on that food product?”

    “I know Julie, but it tastes, smells, and feels like it and all that is missing is the squeal. Interesting sets of data Julie. Good work. For now, let's try the trailing L-point. I feel like the third set of data is the lucky set. Just a random lucky guess. While we're at it; try out that Xi’An hardware I salvaged from that old Freelancer. I don't want to think I sacrificed a weapon hard-point for nothing. I know it's not normally mounted that way... but this isn't a Freelancer. I also want to use a spectroscopic analysis of the ram-scoop intake as we fly. Let's see if we get lucky and our bird might peck down some breadcrumbs.”

    “Those are novel approaches Sir. I don't have any records of any Jump Point search quite like this. All ships have live spectroscopic analysis of ram-scoop intakes to tune the engine efficiency and prevent damage should the ship hit molecular clouds or other oddities and shunt the stream outboard, but to use the extremely broad net cast by the scoop field as a form of sensor network and treat it like some bloodhound is sheer genius!”

    “Don't make me blush Julie. I know you could see that in several spectrums. I considered asking you to scan the spectrograms of as many stars in the planisphere as possible and check for absorption lines we are seeking, but realized that the chance of a stray molecule passing in front of disk of a star is infinitesimal in the given time we would have to give it. Then I realized it was far more likely to catch the odd molecule with the wider net of the ram-scoop.”

    “Sir, I have been making use of the Xi'An hardware as soon as you asked me to start searching for the Jump Point. I believe you wished me to use all the tools we had at our disposal. No positive indications. I did do a test run to attempt to locate the point we planned to leave through. I thought to test out the equipment and it is functioning in the green... or in the magenta actually. We are clear to test using it for Jump Points as we continue further in our search with confidence.”

    “Good work Julie. I am counting on the carriers leaving something more behind than a string of freeze-dried corpses.”

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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine Commentary

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 16
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    When you are this far out, it is hard to pick up packet mail, well actually nearly impossible. When I say “far out” I don't mean distant in parsecs from Sol or Terra or Stanton, I mean jumps distant from civilized space. A system could be scant light-years from some extremely familiar sounding system, but without a very easily accessible Jump Point. Jump Points mean everything in inter-system travel. Toss a bag full of marbles onto a lawn. Then toss a very loosely woven net over them. Dab a dob of glue on each knot and stick it on the closest marble. Some marbles will have more than one knot, and most will be glued to at least one, let's say. Now... take a scissors and start cutting strands... don't cut too many and try not cut all the strands from any marble. That is sort of what the network of Jump points is like except one thing... each knot only has one string.

    So there are places where you have to do a real hopscotch of marbles and knots to get from some marbles to reach some of them. That makes some marbles distant or “far out” relatively. Since messages essentially have to travel the same paths that ships do, if you are some place that is so very far out that ships rarely ply out that way, then communications get spotty too.

    What does that mean? I was getting little news.

    On the other hand, there was always tons of information to catch up on. For someone like me, there were always technology breakthroughs. Those little tricks that let me break through security are constantly being blocked by guys just like me — so we have to keep on top so we can both break them and build defences against them. It sort of sounds like a conflict of interests, doesn't it?

    I also am interested in xenobiology, ship technology, sociobiology, post-contact religious studies, and many other things. Since information storage is so easily built into a ship, a mobiglass, a toaster, socks... whenever you actually are someplace with spectrum connections you download whatever you can and upload whatever you have.

    So, I was going through communications and journals and entertainment... and monitoring instruments while doing a modified grid search of a cone of interest.

    o o o

    “Sir.”

    “Yes, Julie?”

    “Do you remember what you said about a string of freeze-dried corpses.”

    “Julie! There isn't!” I gasped and must have turned pale.

    “No Sir, not exactly. I didn't actually search for a trail of bodies. But in addition to the normal polymers, alloys, and other materials unique to the construction of a carrier, including decaying isotopes — inspired by your off the cuff comment — I also included a data filter to scan for components of life. I scanned beyond the usual deep space molecules of life such as amino acids and simple sugars. I included scans for long segments of DNA, especially those included in the human genome.”

    “And you found some Julie?”

    “Yes Sir. I was going to ask for permission to follow up on this lead and follow the molecular trail. We can now combine the data from the ram-scoop with spectroscopic analysis of starlight from the direction of choice to confirm, though the later will be very sparse.”

    “Good work Jules. The more data we gather the tighter our search will become and the faster the data will roll in.” It had already been three weeks since we left the carriers.

    o o o

    “Julie, can you confirm these readings?”

    “Sir, yes the isotope balance is right for the carriers having passed this way. And as you surmised it is dropping down rapidly as if we had passed the start of the trail.”

    “Julie, attempt to locate the origin of the point where the trail started decaying and attempt to recreate the expansion sphere for it so we can narrow our search for the Jump-Point insertion.”

    It only took 3 days to determine where the Drake had entered the system. The isotope mix was a bit different than the Magellan's would have been if you took into account when the two ships disappeared. Of course while all ships had to enter a Jump-Point at the same location, ships exited at a more random location. Still it was possible to predict that location if you had a few insertion points.

    Having found the Drake's entry point we backtracked to Beta and were able to track down the Magellan's entry point in only 8 days.

    We now had two exit points. Four would have made our task much simpler, but we had two and that would have to do. It might cut our search time down considerably. However, even an Origin 315p has limits. I was starting to reach BINGO supplies and fuel. Safely, I had two weeks left, but that didn't include searching an unknown Jump-Point.

    I wish I had a base of operations closer at hand. Somewhere I could refuel and gather supplies without having to leave. When I was in the Navy that was the point of running fighters off of capital...

    “Julie, what was the state of those carrier's stores? Could we refuel and restock?”


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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine Commentary

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Posted:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 17
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    “Sir, even if the full complement of fighters and other ships on the carriers had left with topped off reserves, there would be many times that amount left in the carriers' tanks. There should also be provisions in ship's supplies but care must be taken against contamination. I recommend only taking on emergency ration packs and only after a surface decontamination treatment. Perhaps we could find ration packs in sealed containers and leave the external containers behind taking only the packs?”

    “Jules, would it be more likely we find some intact auxiliary craft on the Magellan? The Drake went in at action stations with all axillary craft and fighters manned. The Magellan wouldn't have had time to even try launch.”

    “Excellent possibility Sir. Though I must point out that the Drake is a somewhat known location now while the Magellan is a total unknown — we can make some predictions based on what we know of the Drake and of Siberian Class carriers like the Magellan. We can also make some guesses based on the fact that while the Drake is missing her bow, the Magellan is missing her stern, which would include most of main engineering as well as the bridge.”

    “Perhaps that might make the Magellan more predictable Julie? Anyway, I might try access a copy of the computer network and perhaps a copy of any log from any command crew if they had time to make one.”

    o o o

    The flight back to the ringed planet and into the rings was rather uneventful other than the usual dodging of iceberg sized... ice bergs... in the rainbow glittery ice ring area and iceberg sized rocks in the gloomy dust ring. In the gloomy dust ring with strands of dust flowing by, all that was missing was the occasional tumbleweed, cactus, and a coyote howling in the distance.

    Though of course on cue, the FM band of the radio did start up with that strange howling I now associated with the static charge build up the dust in the rings caused. The first time I had entered the rings I had the analog reception turned off, but it had been on since I had been in the Drake.

    “Julie, can you tune down the FM and just monitor that visually and have you figured out a protocol to reduce the charge build-up?”

    “Sir, I scoured the databases stored on-board as thoroughly as the dust is trying to scour our force-fields and actually I have the force-fields doing a good job of that at the moment. I also have a protocol in place for the actual landing when we will have dropped down the force-fields for refuelling and your possible egress. I actually found hints in some of the 21st century 2D entertainment files. On something called a history channel they showed how they discharged static electricity when they were lowering men or supplies from rotary winged vehicles.”

    “Julie, you can tell me all about rotary winged vehicles later, we are approaching the carriers now. Are you lighting up the Magellan on the HUD?”

    The two carriers were outlined on the HUD along with larger rocks that I would have to avoid. Smaller objects the engine's scoop field nudged out of the way while the shields deflected dust and even smaller debris the same way the aerodynamic skin would direct air around the ship. One of the two derelicts was highlighted on the HUD. The other was well defined as a wreck with an indication showing the torn edges and a ghost outline of what was missing. The highlighted carrier — I assumed the Magellan — had a vaguer section where the damaged area began and the ghosted area was.

    On cue another body slid past the canopy.

    o o o

    The Magellan's hangar doors were shut tight and all running lights dimly glowing through a thick layer of dust. The lights have a low – nav-hazard setting that runs off internal fission power cells that will last for centuries. I wouldn't have to try break any codes to open the hangar doors... not when the back half of the ship was missing.

    Julie and I searched our ship database — well I used my Julie concierge program to search the database — to determine which hangar deck would hold ships likely to have what we wanted. We figured a larger auxiliary craft would have the emergency ration packs and such I needed, as well as other incidentals. Possibly it would even be moored near refuelling facilities. I had an ulterior motive for wanting to seek out an auxiliary ship. I hoped it would be in a relatively dust-free area where the grav plates were out.

    If the grav plates were out, I would be able to use the PJ's docking collar to dock with the auxiliary craft. After a small decontamination procedure of the interlock area I could move between the two ships unhampered using nothing more than my armoured space suit. There'd be no need to transport the supplies through a contaminated area and in fact, since the auxiliary craft should be sealed, there'd be no reason to expose the supplies to contamination. That also meant less chance of exposing me to contamination even with using the bunny suits and decontamination procedures.

    The Siberian Class Carriers it turned out tended to reserve their lower — their main — hangar deck for combat craft like fighters and bombers. Auxiliary craft like personnel transports, medical evacuation, and cargo transports were launched from the upper — auxiliary — hangar, although there were also two fighter wings based out of there. We might be out of luck since the auxiliary hangar was mostly in the rear half under the command structure. It was the rear third of the Magellan that was missing, meaning most of the auxiliary hangar was missing as well.

    o o o

    Entering the Magellan was no problem. There was a bit of torn wreckage to manoeuvre around, but the hangar deck was so large there was room to slip in, even so. Julie extended our grounding probe — something actually intended for normal atmospheric landings on aerial platforms, floating platforms and the like — and balanced our charge with the carrier. There were layers of dust in the hangar and on equipment, though not much loose equipment near the ruptured end. Further in there was a jumble that could be seen.

    Contrasting with the Drake, there were many ships mixed with the flotsam gathered at the bow end of the hangar. It was obvious that the Magellan had had no preparations to abandon their ship where the Drake's Commander reported in his log that when they went through the Jump-Point their ships were manned. The grav plates were all discharged or only negligibly charged so it only took finding a suitable intact auxiliary craft. We did have to carefully use our tractor beam to clear some debris to allow us to dock. The docking was a bit awkward in that the docking ring on the 315p is located on the top of the hull where most of the auxiliary craft had side docking ports. It meant putting the PJ on it's side and snugging its top against the side of the auxiliary craft.

    We decided on trying to dock with a medical evacuation craft even though it was smaller and a bit more awkward to dock with. A troop transport or one of the freight or fuel transports would have been easer to dock with because they were larger. My reasoning was that the transports likely could be stocked for their crews in their emergency kits, but the whole medical evac unit was an emergency kit and so the whole ship would be kept stocked.

    After manoeuvring the evac craft so it hung in the middle of the hanger I then positioned us to dock. We did a decontamination procedure to clear the space that would be between our two craft before opening our lock so I could move into theirs. I didn't know what to expect and tried to keep it out of my mind. I didn't want to... even think of what I didn't want to think of.


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    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine Commentary

  • Gnome

    Posts: 519

    Posted:
    Edited: by Gnome
    Posted:
    Edited:
    Curse of Wedding Veil Nine
    Part 18
    by DWPenner @GNOME


    I first checked to see if the cabin of the Evac had been sealed and remained uncontaminated. A first and good indicator was that it was still holding pressure. The pressure was on the low side, but that was accounted for due to the drop in temperature. It would be necessary to use the locks to pass between the ships simply due to temperature and pressure differences. I didn't plan on bringing the Evac ship up to STP. The emergency supplies would have handled the freezing temperatures well enough.

    The air checked out uncontaminated. There were some indications of organic decomp however; and I steeled myself for what I might find when I cracked the seal on the other side.

    "Julie, we should evacuate the airlock between each trip to Evac ship."

    "Sir, why should we do that? There should be no contamination from the rest of the ship, should there?"

    "No Julie, but evacuating the air would get rid of any possible — odours, that might be present in the Evac ship. That plus it might just feel a whole lot more hygienic. Just count it up to squeamishness in any case."

    "Duly noted Sir. I shall cycle the airlock with each trip. You are free to exit the airlock when you're ready."

    I held my breath as I opened the lock on the Evac ship even though I knew I wouldn't smell anything coming from the dark void beyond.

    All was orderly and deathly quiet in the Evac ship when I entered. I expected everything to be in shambles. I thought whatever tore up the Magellan would have shaken up Evac ship as well. Evac ships however, tend to have everything strapped down. They probably even have Velcro straps on the dust.

    I did a very quick look around using the pools of light my suit lamps created in the gloom and didn't see anything out of order. Then I did a slower search of the ship. There was some of he glow paint evident as there was on most military vessels, but mostly marking corners and it didn't do much to illuminate the place. It did more to create darker shadows.

    The Evac ship was divided into three main compartments. There was the rear lock compartment that I was in; then forward of that was a larger area with emergency berths and workstations; and of course the cockpit to the front. The hatches were open between these compartments but I could see no sign of what caused the decomp gases. That worried me.

    I floated through to the mid-compartment. Mostly all was in order — a few hospital corners were untucked. Then I entered the cockpit…

    There floated — in the middle of cockpit hanging like some furry green dragon with browned lettuce wings and mould covered bun body — a spoiled hero sandwich.

    "Jules, I think I found the source of the decomp. There's a spoiled sandwich hanging here in the middle the cockpit. Would that account for the amount of decomp in the air?"

    "Checking details sir, it will only take a moment. Just to confirm, are the two hatches between the three compartments open?"

    "Yes Jules, the two hatches are open."

    "Yes sir, the decomp in the air could be accounted for by the decomposition of a large sandwich. It would have to be the size of a submarine sandwich or something similar."

    "Okay Jules, I think we found the source of the decomp then."

    It didn't take long to gather up the supplies we needed. I needed three trips to the airlock and the cycled it twice in order to get the supplies I wanted.

    Next we looked for a clear path to a fueling station. We wanted to find a fueling station that was easy to get to, and quick to leave. There were many fueling stations but most were covered by clutter and some didn't have a clear path to the exit. After searching and some discussion we found a suitable one.

    We were able to connect our refueling line with minimal fuss without me even having to do an EVA.

    It was only after fueling that problems started. There was a low vibration. We had the shields down for fueling. The air was clear of dust, so I didn't think it would be an issue to drop the shields. But then I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. I looked out the cockpit canopy — or tried to. It was already covered with a thick film of dust.

    There was a thump, and some of that dust parted by the impression of a face pressed against the canopy.


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