Sky in the Stars, Part 13

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Answering the distress call, Captain Snow warps to save EX-390, and solve the mystery of the absent Skylar.

28 September 2931

Sigma 5 Outer Rim

Uncharted Space

Skylar awoke to a blizzard. She was blind to the flurry of wind and snow. After disabling the helmet on her suit, the HUD only displayed that the energy level was at 0% but the suit still managed to notify her of that. She pressed on walking, forgetting her previous dilemma… forgetting how she ended up there. The cells in her body felt like they were freezing one by one. Ice coursed through her veins, chilling her down to the very bone like a freezing venom approaching her heart. Yet she continued forward walking through what she felt would be the last moments of her life. Death’s grip was slowly crushing her spirit, but still she pressed on, her face bitten with frost and the roaring winds blowing passed her ears.

 

 

A Gray Hunter frigate, the Thebes, shifted to the right. Its engines flared, flame tinted blue roared out of the thrusters. Drag fins folded down into the short wings as the wings themselves shifted to rest at a 45 degree angle. Double-barreled assault platforms began crawling into the innards of the streamlined ship. Three platforms sat in forward positions while the other two sat aft. The Thebes was armed with pods of missiles, and significant power to the cannons. The weapon systems were hardly used, but the crew kept them raised when the Thebes was gliding through space. It made a much easier time of confronting pirates.

The bridge was at the very center of the ship, it featured a raised view port and sunken computer terminals. The commander, Ondrej Vostal, issued orders left and right keeping everything in order.

“Full ahead. Please prep the jump drives immediately.” said Ondrej. He rose from his chair and moved up a small flight of curved stairs located at each side of the bridge. He stopped and saluted the Captain as she entered the bridge. “Attention on deck.” Ondrej shouted. All the crewmen stood to their feet in salute. Those standing had straightened their backs. The Captain, Carlina Snow, was a thin but tall woman. Her jet black pixie cut hair was swayed to the side with a long fringe to cover her left eye. She saluted in return.

“As you were.” said the Captain. Her face was starting to show its age if her voice did not. The crewmen resumed their duties, something Carlina had wished they never stopped. She was a former UEE soldier and despised that the same formality regulations were enforced in an organization as shady as Gray Hunter. She simply wished that people would continue to be productive rather than stop for just a moment. Captain Snow looked to Ondrej, “What’s the situation Commander Vostal?” Snow took her seat on the upper bridge. The Commander leaned over and brought up the holo-monitor. The crystal blue display appeared in front of them, as well as a projected keyboard. Ondrej typed a few commands before a report had come on screen. The Captain leaned forward.

“This is a distress call from EX-390.” The captain said aloud. “Requesting immediate assistance. Code 01.” The captain raised a brow, a knuckle gently pressed to her lower lip. “01? Refresh my memory, Commander.”

Ondrej  looked troubled, “Code 01, ma’am. Immediate military assistance of all in-range personnel. Usually issued when a station’s defenses are overrun.”

“Well that’s new. All the stations are usually fully equipped to handle most opposition. What’s a few scraggly pirates to an entire station? Do we know the situation?”

“No ma’am. Overwatch agent Skylar Connor sent the signal only a minute ago.” Ondrej added.

“EX-390… that rickety old station.” Captain Snow muttered.

The Commander straightened his posture, “The call came over standard Gray Hunter frequency.”

“Well, then we don’t want to be late to the party.” Captain Snow leaned back. She brought up her wrist to speak onto a microphone over the ship’s loud speaker, “Navigation Officer Minskey. Plot course to EX-390 Station. Be wary of your calculation. I don’t want to warp into another ship.”

The Thebes continued to move at the highest speeds possible for its size. During said time, the warp accelerator drive gathered obscene amounts of energy from the power plant nestled inside the spacecraft. The Thebes was not a new ship, and the more the accelerator charged, the more the crew could feel the bass hum from the power plant.

One of the engineers spoke over the comms, “Captain Snow, the accelerator’s reached maximum capacity and the hydrogen p—“

“Spare me the science, Randazzo.” Snow cut in. “Minskey?”

“Coordinates set, captain!” Minskey announced.

“All crew,” Snow said, “Prepare to jump. All hands assume seated positions. All battle stations prepped. We may be jumping into a hostile situation. Get those guns loaded now. Commander Ondrej.”

“Yes ma’am.” Ondrej nodded before bringing up  his wrist-com. “Navigations?”

“Check!” replied a few voices.

“Comms.” Ondrej added.

“Aye, sir!”

“Engineering!”

“Good to go!”

“Armory?”

“Locked down.”

Ondrej turned to his captain, “Captain Snow, we are cleared to jump for EX-390 on your command.”

Captain Snow narrowed her eyes. “Do it.”

The key was turned in engineering. The world began to shift, stretch, and fluctuate. Everything seemed large than usual. The Thebes appeared to be stretching out over several thousand miles before the bow completely dissipated into a tiny pinpoint of light. The aft remained where it was but continued to stretch out with white-hot plasma energy pouring from the engines and the accelerator. As suddenly as the ship began to stretch out, it came together again. They arrived at the asteroid field, and the station was only a distance away. A siren blared in alarm as lights across the decks spiraled in red light. All the crewmen unstrapped themselves from their seats and rushed about. Captain Snow viewed the space in front of her. Amongst the floating asteroids were dozens of ships, fighters and cruisers alike.

“Vanduul…” Captain Snow whispered. “All hands to battle stations!”

Immediately to the starboard side the Thebes fired their largest cannons into the fray of Vanduul opposition. Several Gray Hunter fighters jumped into the scene and joined the fray, along with another battlecruiser.

A face appeared on Snow’s console screen. It was the Captain of the other frigate, the Praetorian. “Captain Snow.” said the hailing Captain Cheng, a younger gentlemen, but very competent for the position.

“Captain Cheng, nice of you to join us.”

“Couldn’t let you steal the fun again, Snow.” Cheng remarked. “Deploying bay fighters into the field to pick out any stragglers. We’ll cover the asteroid field, take care of the station.”

“Got it.”

One of the turret operators narrowed his eyes and began firing at one of the fighters, but stopped upon seeing its wing had already been severed, and not by cannon fire. He thought it odd, but another gunner had blasted it anyway. He blinked and hesitantly continued fighting.

“Commander.” Captain Snow ordered. “Bring up security feed aboard the station… I want to know the situation inside. And where’s Overwatch?”

Ondrej nodded and typed away at his keyboard before bringing up the screen to a larger display for the captain. The view of security footage showed the station mostly bare. The Vanduul were scurrying back to their ships in the hangar bay, but were unable to proceed since the airlock had been opened. They were all bunched up at the door. Snow saw the vast amount of fighters locked in the hangar bay which could have easily made the battle far more difficult.

“That’s odd…” Captain Snow raised a brow. “Who would do that? Can you rewind the footage? I want to see every room, and every door. Where is the crew?” The footage was pushed back and then split across dozens of screens. They showed barracks, engineering and all the rooms where crewmen could be. Many of them were hiding, some locked away into a room and unable to get out. One of the communication officers informed Snow that many of the miners were still out in the field and hiding among the asteroids. “Bring up structural reports. When was this attack issued?” The information showed that the distress signal was delayed by nearly 30 minutes after the initial attack. Snow furrowed her brows. “Bring up Overwatch.” The footage pressed back to Skylar in her command deck. Snow watched as Skylar dealt with her broken equipment, moved to the quartermaster and received a replacement. The airlock kicked on. Skylar held on for dear life.

Snow watched as Skylar ran about the ship, took the technicians suit and moved to the observation tower. Captain Snow snorted at Skyar’s actions, and then had her crew decipher all system logs at the current time.

“Distress signal was sent here, Captain Snow.” said a comms officer. Snow looked at her log, and then at the initial signal time. They didn’t match up. Snow continued to watch Skylar sit there in fear before moving back into the ship. Footage was lost as Skylar went into the vents but Snow watched carefully as Skylar arrived in the hangar, snuck passed the Vanduul guard and hijacked a ship. Snow’s eyes widened. Further security footage showed a rogue Vanduul ship being chased by identical ones before disabling a device on the stations comm tower. It wasn’t until moments after that the Thebes appeared. The battle ensued.

“Oh no…” Snow gasped. “Check your fire! We have a crewman aboard a Vanduul fighter, check for suit signatures!” Captain Snow looked nervous, checking all recent feeds from the turrets and all confirmed kills. It would have been impossible to tell from mere footage, but one clue had given Snow the hint she needed. The Vanduul fighter missing its blade... Snow watched as one of the turrets blasted the fighter, once… then again. Snow zoomed in on the camera. A pilot was cast away from the explosion, intact but flying fast. “God damnit! Commander, replay that footage. I want exact calculations on the speed and trajectory of that pilot. “Turn this ship around!”

“But Captain!” called one of the crewmen.

“Captain Cheng.” Snow said as the ship began to shift position. “We’re backing out. Most of the Vanduul are still in the station.”

“Roger, Captain Snow. We have the situation contained. ”

“Do we have a trajectory path?!” Snow barked.

“Setting course, Captain!” called out a crewman.

The Captain pressed herself against the back of the chair, gripping the armrests as sweat  glistened over her skin. “Hang on kid.” The trip felt like hours despite minutes that had pressed on. “You’re sure those calculations were correct?”

“Yes ma’am. We’ve applied the same data-solutions used to track asteroids in the field, only on a smaller scale. The blast from the ship sent the pilot at high speed, we’re adjusting the engines to catch up.”

“Well get those scanners on. I want all available power to radar.” Snow said, rising from her seat and unable to sit tight.

 

 

Skylar’s suit wasn’t doing much but providing little warmth against the frigid blasts of cold wind. Her feet were numb, and her sense of direction gone. She couldn’t remember seeing trees… nor tracked how long she walked. She convinced herself to press on until she’d collapse out of exhaustion. With the final bits of energy zapped from her body, she fell to one knee… then to the other. She turned and fell onto her back. Snow quickly covered her body as a blanket with no warmth. Death approached… the reaper was near. She felt she could reach out and touch him. A dark hooded figure stood above her… formless and menacing.

Skylar!

 

 

“We’ve got something!” said one of the crewmen. “Pinging her suit to your radar, Captain.”

The Captain was already in the hangar, suited and geared. The hangar bay was airlocked as Snow stood while the bay doors opened. Snow’s helmet flashlights beamed ahead as she propelled herself with the suits thrusters and headed straight for Skylar’s body as she closer to the Captain. There was no movement from Skylar. The signal was weak. With the aid of the ships tractor beam the body was brought closer to Snow. The Captain embraced Skylar, immediately pulling a braided cord from her suit and plugging it into Skylar’s. Both oxygen and power were fed to Skylar’s suit as Snow propelled themselves back to the ship.

“I want that med team as soon as the airlock is sealed.” Snow said. She looked back down to the limp Skylar as she landed back into the hangar. The doors shut, the airlock sealed. The medical crew flooded the room putting Skylar on a stretcher and removing her helmet as soon as the suit’s power gave enough charge.

“She’s so young…” Snow shook her head.

“Engaging integrated suit defibrillator.” A medic called out as a cord was plugged to Skylar’s chest piece. The suit’s running lights kicked on. “Clear.” With a quick hum, power drove into Skylar’s suit and her body convulsed on the stretcher. There was no signal. Again, and again they tried. “We’re not getting anything Captain!”

“Step aside!” Snow pushed the medic away and cranked the defibrillator power higher. “Skylar!”

 

 

Thunder roared in the endless blizzard. The dark figure looked toward the Skylar and quickly vanished. All Skylar could hear was the sound of her name being called by a thousand voices. She found the energy to stand again.  Lightning pierced the clouds. The ground shook, and the world began to crumble. The storm only became more violent as the earth beneath her fell into an endless abyss.

“Mom?!” Skylar cried out. Her tears froze immediately on her cheeks. Her voice began to crack as she reached out in front of her. “Dad?!” She was unable to formulate words. Armaggedon was happening and she was at the center of it. Through fear of death, she cowered and fell to her knees again.  She cried harder than she could remember.

“I’M SORRY!”

 

 

Skylar’s eyes opened. Her finger twitched. The voices were still muffled, and the light too bright to gaze at.

“We’ve got a pulse.” a medic stated. “I… I think she’s back, Captain.” Snow peered over Skylar, crossing her arms with a sigh of relief. Skylar looked to the Captain, her eyes barely open.

Captain Snow smirked, “You’re one tough son of a bitch.”



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