Opsfleet Chapter Eleven

The reason Lieutenant Kenya was forwarding all traffic comms to Finn on the barrow was she was busy in a locked-out science lab on the orders of the captain.  Part of all ship docking systems are links to power, life support, and data lines. When the Yutomaky docked, Kenya had a backdoor rootkit already running. Weir’s bad docking certainly helped keep the station crew distracted while Kenya’s package was hijacking the security systems.

 

Likewise, the reason McArthur didn’t join Weir in the meeting is he was busy rolling a barrel from the Yutomaky to the station’s life support machinery, unseen on the security cameras thanks to a render program that was omitting him from the security cameras.  When McArthur joined Weir on the ops deck, he already had his own insurance policy installed on the station.

 

***

 

Corporal Andrew Penn looked upon the strip club with awe despite Jaime Whitmore’s obvious disdain as she looked upon the lap dancing cathedral of dirty deeds with one side of her lip that couldn’t have been raised any further as her face pulled inward at the sights and smells of the foggy room.

 

“What the fuck is that?!” Jaime held her nose and observed someone having sexual intercourse at a table about seven meters away from the entrance. She was pushed out of the way by a group of space truckers that barreled through the door to have their turn with the women. One of the truckers stopped and admired the skinny fighter pilot.

 

“You one of the uh…”
“NO!” Jaime said.

“Oh those are titties,” Andrew answered her question.
“Not the titties!” Jaime punched Andrew in the arm. The Marine didn’t feel a thing, really. He started dancing to the music. “I’m talking about that smoke! I haven’t seen real smoke like this. Did you know that it’s unhealthy?”

 

Another arm grabbed her and she was about to elbow the next person that complimented her. She refrained from making contact when she saw Shannon, the ships lead engineer, leaning in to speak into her ear over the sound of chaos disguised as music.

 

“Anything you breathe in can be filtered out when you get onboard if you’re worried about second hand contact with carcinogens.” Shannon said it matter-of-factly.  Jaime shook her head at her.

 

“Way to ruin my legitimate gripe! And you’re not’ the doctor” Jaime said.

“Oh if you want to see griping, I suggest you find Finn… I’m sure she’s going to be more interesting than a nude dancer in this place.” Andrew said.

 

“Where’s the rest of the Marines?” Jaime asked.

“Fuck if I know…  One moment…” Andrew unfolded a data sheet from his pocket that had obviously been through the wash with his fatigues. “Alright.. So…” He flipped through the heavily creased sheet as the screen reacted poorly to his touch. A layout of the bar came to the screen while he tried to smooth the paper out on his knee. Personal Transmitter’s for the Marines showed up.

“Okay… Carlisle is on CAP?!” He flicked the sheet and the data changed. “Sorry… I didn’t’ even know I had one of these in my pocket. It’s an old one. There we go… He’s on the Yutomaky… Jenn is at the bar trying to get laid, Eric is — Onboard the Yutomaky, no surprise there… That Medic wouldn’t know a woman if she sat on his face..”

 

Jaime punched Andrew in the arm again. This time he felt it.
“Ah, come on…” Andrew said. He looked closer at the sheet, “Weir is upstairs somewhere. I don’t have a map for up there. Sean is …” Shannon tapped Andrew on the shoulder, and Jaime punched him on the shoulder again. They both pointed over to the stage. Sean was on it, with a microphone….

 

“He didn’t have time to get drunk yet!” Andrew yelled.

“Nah he’s sober,” Jaime said.

“What the fuck is he going to do when he’s not?!”

Shannon smiled a little as she watched.

 

*

 

Weir hurried back into the airlock bay and crawled through the tube to the Barrow. His lies required a lot of work and he had to make good on them before someone came looking for a printer that didn’t really exist. Weir tapped his communicator on his wrist. Sean was the man for the job. When he activated Sean’s channel though, music started playing.

 

“Sean?”

 

It was some 20th Century Pop song… Weir could hardly make it out but he could hear Sean’s voice doing the singing. Weir looked at his wrist and squinted his eyes at it before tapping it to turn the communications link off. He wondered who he would send in his place that wouldn’t’ tell the captain about all the shit he just spilled on the station. He tapped his communicator again.

 

“Andrea?” Weir asked.

“The one and only!”

Weir smiled and nodded, “Okay… I need your help. Can you head down to the printers and work with me on an ongoing schematic for a device and gather some tools for me too?”

There was silence on the other end of the line and then finally, he heard her voice again.

“Weir… Do you have any idea how big this ship is?” Andrea asked. “I don’t know how to get anywhere! I only know your quarters, the bridge… And — The bathroom.”

 

“Okay, you need to go to deck twelve…”

“What bullseye?” Andrea asked.
“Oh, our ship doesn’t run bullseye, we have sections.”

“Spit the Alphabet Out Weir. I don’t have all day,” the little girl said in a snarky tone.

 

Onboard the Yutomaky, Andrea stepped out into the hallways.

“Okay… Onboard a military ship with no bullseye, only sections…” Andrea pulled a freshly printed data sheet out and tapped along the schematic for her deck. She adjusted her flight suit and stretched her legs before skipping down the hallway. “I’m so lost…” She said to herself happily as she worked her way toward a long tube embedded into the hallway.

 

“What the — fudge…” She said to herself as she looked down the tube. “Someone could fall into this thing.” She mumbled to herself. She stepped away from the ledge and walked around the corner to find the stairs. “No wonder everyone on this ship is so fit.” She said as she started jogging down the stairs one deck at a time.

 

By the time she got to deck twelve, she was lost again. She tapped her wrist communicator.
“Why can’t you just come here and get it?”

 

She was met by the sound of a cutting tool winding down. As the silence finally came, Weir replied, “Because I’m busy! I sent you the schematics. Just start making it. Also, go down to supply and grab a bottle of Cap-A Irritant from the self defense section. Make sure to log it out,” Weir added.

 

Andrea got to the bottom of the stairwell, which ended at deck 10.  She wondered if Weir got the directions wrong. She walked up to a wall mounted console and smacked it with her hand.  “Hey you, how do I get to the printer?”

 

The display flashed in bright red.

 

==== UNAUTHORIZED PERSON == SECURITY ALERTED ====

 

Andrea crossed her arms, leaned to the side, and tapped a foot.  “That’s rude. I was only asking you for directions.” She plopped her back against the wall and waited for whatever that cruise liner of a ship called security.

 

Sergeant Eric Morley was the security response.  He was in off-duty casuals with a side-arm hanging from his hip by a loose belt, looking almost like a cowboy.  “Oh, it’s you,” he said, his body language relaxing. “What do you need from the computer?”

 

“Deck 12D, the printer,” Andrea said with a smile, waving a bite-sized data stick.

“Right, the commander has made you his secretary then.  Well at least I don’t have to go onboard that toilet of a station.  You have no clearance what-so-ever, which means you need me to log you in.  Let’s go print whatever that is.”

Morley backtracked to the tube by the stairs that Andrea avoided.  He tapped in the destination in to the panel, and then two rods slid out of a slot in the tube wall.  Morley stepped into the tube, and instead of falling, he floated. He grabbed the handle rod, held down a trigger button, and was dragged to his destination.

“Oh that is so cool!” she said as she jumped in, grabbed the second handle rod, and was pulled after Morley.  “It’s a zero-g zipline! Why isn’t this on other ships?”

“Probably because civilian crews are morons,” Eric said.  “No offense.”

“Oh, no it’s okay,” Andrea said.  “They are morons. But this is cool!”

Eric laughed.

 

The zero-g transit tube put them into the flight ops room, overlooking the flight deck.  Hanna Swan looked up from a movie she was watching on the ATC console and stared a bit shocked at what she was seeing.  “Hey, uh, no children on the flight deck,” she said, wondering to herself if there were even children among the crew.

 

“Don’t insult me!” Andrea shouted.  “It’s not my fault the gene therapist messed up and put me back 40 years instead of 30!”

 

Hanna blushed.  “Sorry, ma’am. My mistake.”  She swivelled her head back to watching her movie.  Andrea followed quickly behind Eric with wide scared eyes, like she didn’t expect it to work and was getting away before she was challenged again.

 

“You’re really good at that,” Eric said.

“My daddy taught me that a lie in confidence tricks most people,” she said.

“Why would he teach you that?” Eric said quietly to himself.

 

They went downstairs to the cargo bay and crossed over on the catwalk.  The cargo bay was kept tidy, everything stacked to the sides to keep a central path clear from the printer bay to the main cargo lift that went to the flight bay.  They went through heavy doors and into the fabrication bay.

 

The Yutomaky’s industrial printer was as big as the Barrow’s engineering compartment.  There were tubes and conveyors to move raw materials to the particle printers. All raw material were mined, and broken down to basic atomic elements which were stored in tanks.  The printer could then reassemble that matter into any molecule, any compound, in any shape as long as there were enough raw material in the storage tanks. The printer head itself looked like a giant ray beam from ancient spy movies.  It was on a large gantry and printed onto an equally large platform that acted as a lazy-susan.

 

“Wow!  Your ship could… print other ships!” Andrea said excited as she looked around at all the machinery on the way to the control room.

“We’ve already made two fighters with it.  They actually fly better than the original factory ones they replaced.  Chip, please?”

Andrea handed Eric the data stick.  He jammed it into a port and typed quickly on the console.  The schematics came up. “Looks like a crappy movie prop. You and the commander making a holo?” Eric asked.

Andrea shrugged.  “He just said to make it, he didn’t say what to do with it.  Oh, and he wants me to sign out a cap-a bomb, whatever that is.”

“He wants a little girl to sign out a what now?” Eric asked rhetorically.  While the industrial printer started the warm-up cycle, he sent a page to Weir.

“Is the printer going yet?” Weir asked.

“Yes it is,” Eric said with a slight scold to his voice.  “Are you trying to bring down the wrath of the captain upon us?  You have a little girl printing fake printers and fetching bombs.”

 

“The captain gave me express permission to take whatever I want from the Yutomaky to secure the Barrow.  Ask him yourself.” There was the sound of something heavy dropping onto a deck and a muffled ‘motherfucker’.  “Well now that you know, can you help Andrea get the bomb and bring it all over to the Barrow? Use the shuttle, I don’t want them seeing it on their security cameras.”

 

“Only if we use void gas and I get to watch,” Eric said.

There was a long pause.  “We don’t have v-gas.” Another pause.  “Do we have void gas?”

Andrea rolled her eyes at the discussion about chemical bombs.

“I minored in chemistry and pharmaceuticals,” Eric said.

“Nah,” Weir said.  “I’m going to stick to my original plan ”

The comm link closed.  Eric looked at the printer’s controls.  “56 minutes to completion.” The printer had finished warm-up.  The tip of the villainous spy-cutting laser printer was white-hot, and starting its calibration.  Eric looked at Andrea. He unclipped a small can from his belt. It was a standard issue Multipurpose Cap-A Cannister.  It could be used as a gel spray, a gas grenade, or a gas mine. He handed it to Andrea. “I have things I rather do,” he said before leaving.

 

*

 

Shannon stepped onto the stage while Sean sang his third song and started to stagger from the free alcohol. Several men started cheering at the flight-suit clad Engineer as she took the microphone from him and handed him a set of sobriety pills.

 

“Jessica brought the bag,” Shannon said.

“What if I’m not ready to be drunk yet?” Sean asked.

“You are drunk,” Shannon corrected.
“Nnnah… I’m smashed… One pill will make me drunk again, the other sober.” Sean pointed to himself, “Smashed,” toward the pill, “Drunk”, toward her, “Sober…”

 

“There is no proper designation,” Shannon suggested.

“I deem the designation,” Sean said before staggering more

“You’re not making any sense,” Shannon said.

“Yeah, but I can still sing well.”

 

“Are you two going to bicker all night or are you going to choose a song? Sing or get off the stage!” The voice didn’t come from any one person, but rather, from an unembodied artificial intelligence that spoke through the same speakers that the music was coming out of. The crowd started cheering at the comment and Shannon rolled her eyes. She reached into Sean’s pocket and pulled out a data sheet. She unfolded it and connected to the computer system on the stage by flicking her fingers across the surface. The paper changed to list a series of songs and genre’s of music.

 

It was when Shannon started singing and dancing to the music that Sean decided to finally back off the stage. The Yutomaky crew were stunned, and the bar patrons were confused as to why…

 

Sean took two sobriety pills just to make sure that he was seeing the truth of how beautiful her voice was while holding onto Jennifer Hanks.

 

“Did you know about this?” Sean asked.

Jenn shook her head slowly while just watching. She didn’t have anything to say as she watched Shannon move her shoulders and arms in time with the beat while walking from one side of the stage to the other. She engaged the crowd, stopped sales of lapdances, and disrupted the sale of drinks as what was good just seemed to get better. Her voice was perfectly in tune and her motions seemed corrigraphed.

 

The song was over by the time Sean was sober but it was just long enough to show him that he wasn’t dreaming. Shannon stepped off the stage in front of a hand full of Marines and Flight Officers that didn’t know what to say.

 

“I didn’t know they programmed you with that,” Sean couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. Shannon looked at the crew members that were there and shrugged her shoulders.

“I discovered my individual hobbies just as well as the humans.” She explained.

 

“Do you do your own songs?”

 

*

 

Andrea stepped off the shuttle and onto the Barrow. She made a mental note that this very well could be the last time she ever saw the ship, good riddance. At first, she was proud to say she knew the vast cruise liner from stem to stern, but that had been when she had people that she actually wanted to brag to about it. After the pirates took over, she pretended she knew very little about the ship in hopes that her lack of effort would buy time for Opsfleet to find her. She pushed the rest out of her mind as she walked the corridors with the fake molecular printer.

 

She went to the area of the ship Weir said he would be at but there was nobody in the hallway. She tapped her wrist communicator.

 

“Weir, I’m here but you’re not.”

“No, you’re in the wrong place.”

“No, you are an inadequate machine that can’t tell where you are,” Andrea corrected.

“I’m by door C59A.”

“The maintenance people told me that nobody knew what those door codes were for. Find the bullseye,” Andrea said. “Or better yet… Don’t.” The little girl sat the fake machine on the deck and pulled a data sheet out of her pocket. She brought up the ships schematic and then located Weir’s signal.

 

“Oh yeah you’re one whole deck up, genius. I hope you didn’t tell that guy to find it in the wrong place.”

 

“He deserves to go looking for it anyway.”

 

The little girl giggled at that as she entered an elevator. When the doors opened, she found Weir waiting by a hole in the wall. Andrea handed the printer off to Weir and he slid it into the spot.

 

“You might not know how to count decks but you sure do know how to make something look like it belongs in a wall.” Andrea said.

 

Weir smiled at her, “This is going to be Epic.” Weir grabbed up his equipment and patted her on the shoulder, “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go.”

 

“Where did you park the shuttle?” Weir asked. “Where’s your pilot?”

 

“I flew it, and it’s parked just aft of the bridge.”

“You flew it?”

“Got a problem with that?”

 

As the sound of their voices waned, footsteps could be heard approaching the area. Commander Lowe was pushed around the corner by two bigger, brawny men and a tall slender female in her late twenties. The only one that wasn’t armed to the teeth was Lowe, who looked as if he had been in a few fights since boarding the station.