“Path to Exile”
Commander Weir felt that the planet couldn’t move away fast enough. He was tired of the waffling laws that constantly put his life and the life of his fellow androids in jeopardy. There seemed to have been no way out for the past fifteen years of his existence but then the Yutomaky showed up on the roster for available commands. There were people that he was going to miss. The brand new Vector Attack Cruisers were just out and Weir decided to order five of them to the Yutomaky and he decided to fly the first of them into Earth’s orbit to meet up with the ship. Weir had previously checked the holding logs on the Yutomaky and discovered that the fighters originally ordered to arrive on the ship were to be replicated using the ships material printers; a process that would take a month for a crew to build from scratch after their departure. Even then, they were older models that Opsfleet had kept on store for over twenty years. He had never been a commander before and his first orders as second in command of a ship he had never even stepped foot on, was to supply the bay with state of the art fighters that haven’t even been given an “F” rating due to being straight off the drawing board. Weir was eager to see what the fighters could do.
Weir pulled some strings with a few of his previous jobs, one of which was that of a test pilot, in order to even get his hands on the new technology. His side-job would be to connect with test servers on Earth and send back test flight data on new designs when able; this of course would impact the overall mission of his new post to occasionally mine for the materials needed to make test-craft. The war was still on and there was simply too much surveillance to rely on test-sites that could easily be spied on. Opsfleet’s newest way to combat that possibility was to send construction data to a far-off ship on a mission of inner-galactic exploration; the Yutomaky was just what was needed in that regard.
There were a lot of top minds scheduled to be on this ship. Weir imagined that testing fighters for the cause wasn’t the only side-activities in store for the ship. Weir just hoped that the captain, whoever he was, would be “in the know” about everything. Weir smiled to himself as he pushed the throttle forward on his fighter. The thrusters caused him to gasp out of reflex as he felt his body being pushed into the seat. The bottom right corner of the heads up display switched from KM/H to KM/S quite quickly. The puffy clouds that peppered Hawaii and Opsfleet Headquarters quickly turned to specks and the sunlight over the pacific reflected off the vast waters below even as the blue sky turned dark and revealed the stars. Another kick in the pants; KP/S swiftly showed numbers in the double digits and he had to throttle down to allow the inertial dampers to stop draining the capacitors and overheating the engine. Weir pulled a small black box open next to his throttle stick and a mechanical, analog keyboard popped out for him to type on. The screen below him displayed green text on a black background; Opsfleet reverted back to simplistic systems a long time ago in order to prevent dangerous complexity that could get pilots killed. He typed his destination into the system and it quickly loaded the answers he needed on a processor that was meant for holographic displays. Weir imagined that if the computers could complain, it would tell him how they were being wasted on terrible, outdated information output devices. Nevertheless, Opsfleet’s collective decision to make a computer that would work in the toughest of circumstances, was a good one. The undemanding software built on hardware that could handle complex CGI was a genius move that would prevent most things from hanging or stalling when the pilot needed performance.
A navigation beacon emerged on his holographic Heads Up Display and he adjusted his autopilot to follow the readout. Now that he was in orbit, the fun of manually sticking around was gone; without reference input, the only way to tell he was going five kilometers per hour, or per second, would be the numbers; the breakneck speeds wouldn’t be apparent until he got close enough to spacedock to actually watch the approach. The computer could easily handle that kind of boredom without complaining.
7,250M>Lockheed Dock> Bay 5
ETE: 12-Minutes – Current Course
Weir felt an unusual connection with computers, and everyone who knew him, or knew of him understood this. He was capable of not just understanding the readout’s, but to be capable of understanding what a computer will do — especially a flight computer. Weir wondered if he was just some copy of what he used to be on that fateful day when he made a stupid mistake and woke up on a table surrounded by engineers instead of doctors. Soul or not, he was a better pilot ever since. Not many people get to learn from their own deaths. At least he could run away from the shame just as long as most people onboard the ship forgot that he wasn’t the infallible hotshot pilot that he always thought he was. He could crash again, too. Of that, he was certain…
Because the computer may have been giving him the Estimated Time to Egress, but Weir knew in his mechanical soul that the real messages he was getting from the computer was actually the ETC; Estimated Time to Crash.
Weir fought the temptation to curse under his breath and calculated diagnostic time which came out to a grand total of four minutes after he was supposed to be docking with the Yutomaky. He knew he couldn’t call a mayday in until he knew for sure that there was really something wrong. There was a lag in the machine that caused Weir to know something was up but it’s not solid proof to a meatbag. Weir began the diagnostic and tapped the transmit key.
“Echo X-Ray Zero One to Ares Traffic Control. Delay my arrival time to dock with OFS Yutomaky by Four Minutes and notify actual.”
“Ares TC, EX-Zero One, Delaying your Egress to Four. Notifying Yutomaky.”
Weir rolled through the results of the diagnostic; one computer, talking to another. Weir stopped his eyes on a page of code that would have been unintelligible to anyone else, or even himself a few months ago. The page of code told him a few things:
The fuel distributer was sending so much fuel to the engines, that the safety valve was releasing the excess into space because the engine was only burning at 60% but the fuel flow was at 100%, and the computer, was incorrectly telling the engine that it was burning at full cruising power. Weir sighed and recalculated how much fuel he would have left if he were to run full power to the Yuotmaky and factored out the orbital altitude change since this wasn’t happening.
Out of fuel in 7 Minutes.
Weir quickly adjusted his orbital perigee range to that lower than the Yutomaky’s orbital path, and then fired his engines to full for five seconds. The ETE, or rather ETC now gave him enough fuel to have maneuvering before reaching the ship.
“Well, shit…” Weir sighed.
Weir activated his comm’s again.
“Echo X-Ray Zero One. I need an emergency patch to Yutomaky flight control.”
Chief Hanna Swan thought that the computer was simply testing boarding protocol because her name was called out by the computer the instant she stepped onboard from the shuttle. She gave it no mind until she realized that out of the dozen, only her name echoed throughout the main shuttlebay. The young blonde wrinkled her nose at the announcement as it came over the bay speakers again. They were calling for the Chief Flight Control officer and she was it; she also had no idea where to go. The slender girl looked around at her surroundings; the main bay was empty, most the shuttles that were assigned to the ship were either planetside, or docked in the bay holders, which served as docked shelves for storage. There were six small fighters, two transports including the one she stepped off of, and then the control room that required a ladder; or so she thought.
The moment she stepped onto a gravity tile that was yellow, she found herself partially weightless and capable of making the jump toward the flight control deck. She grabbed hold of the railing that was one story up from the floor of the bay and pulled herself into the room. The computers were already on and waiting her approval. She tapped her username and password into the system and a projection system placed various readouts and camera feeds all over the walls above her head. She tapped a blinking icon and she could hear the hum of an open transmission.
“Is someone calling me?” She asked.
“It depends. Are you the Flight Control Chief?”
“Yes…” It sounded like she was asking a question more than anything else.
“This is Commander Weir, I’m inbound and declaring an emergency. Is the bay clear?”
“No sir. The bay is in heavy use right now.” Hanna looked out the window and observed the crew members and maintenence crew walking around and meeting each other for the first time.
“I need you to clear that bay.”
“Understood,” Hanna reached to the control panel in the center of the control room and turned the overhead speakers on. “Attention all personnel, incoming emergency landing in progress. Incoming emergency in progress. Please clear the shuttle bay and prepare for emergency departure.”
She waited and saw a few people as they gradually filed out of the area, but other people stood around talking. She made the announcement twice but Weir interrupted her in the third announcement.
“Two minutes… Is that bay clear?”
The door opened to a sergeant. He swung his head back toward her after rubbernecking the deck below.
“Why aren’t’ they listening to you?”
“We have our first officer. He’s still…”
“I didn’t ask why you called it. You’re my superior officer, Chief.” Sergeant Sean Reece tapped the overhead intercom. His jaw tightened for a moment as he breathed in heavily through his nose and let loose with the verbal beatdown that was to be ensued.
“Alright! Listen up you sons of bitches! Tap your I.D. bracelets against the door scanner on your way out because I want a list of every one of you assdraggers who decided it was okay not to listen to the Chief FCO! Officers Included! It’s a good thing we’re still in Earth Orbit because some of you are getting transferred if you don’t get the hell out of the bay in forty seconds. All hatches are to be sealed and prepped for emergency A.O.D., on the FCO’s mark, NOW!”
The older, thirty-two year old man tapped the comm’s off and heard someone laughing on the exterior comm’s.
“Holy shit, that was awesome!”
Sean looked confused and looked to Hanna as if asking for answers now. Hanna looked up at Sean with her wide-open, bright blue eyes and shrugged her shoulders.
“Nevermind… Looking forward to meeting the both of you. Look… I’m in some pretty heavy shit right now, man… I’m losing delta-v and I can survive a hot landing a lot easier than I can survive re-entry. We got to A.O.D. everything in that bay that we don’t want destroyed. You got less than a minute and a half. I’m coming in hot.”
Hanna scanned the bay for personnel using both her visual through the windows, and the automated scan before depressurizing the bay. The outside alarm started out loud but soon became mute as the atmosphere became too thin to carry the warning. Bright red lights flashed through the windows as the outside doors opened to the vacuum of space. The vast blue Horizion cast blue-white light to mix with the red emergency lights in the bay just as the now-unmanned transport lifted off in its Automated Only Departure sequence to clear the bay. The racks behind and above the transport released the fighters next, followed by the transports.
As the fighters, scout-ships, and transports emptied out of the bay, the comm system activated to another voice they haven’t yet met; most likely the captain.
“I didn’t order housecleaning, Chief Swan…”
“Sir, we have an emergency situation. Commander Weir is having difficulties with his fighter and is coming in hot.”
“All fighters are accounted for. I’m looking at them right now without the inventory. I can count as well. So, what fighters are you talking about? And why am I able to count them with my eyes?”
Hanna looked out the bay doors to see that all the ships were lined up several meters beyond the bay for safety, and it was obvious that the entire bridge staff would be able to see their own inventory.
“I don’t know, sir. He must be coming in really fast!” Hanna had panic in her voice. She could hear the man on the other end of the comm’s talking with officers on the bridge. The voices on his end seemed manic and stat. “McArthur to Flight Control, good job. When the Commander gets aboard, if he survives, tell him to check his computer. I’ve uploaded a fresh copy of boarding procedures for him to look over. Carry on. Weir… Do you hear me?”
“Yes, sir!” Weir’s voice said.
“Don’t scratch this ship. It’s new! Actual – Out.”
“Our new captain doesn’t seem too concerned with my safety.” Weir said.
“No,” Sean said. “It actually sounds like he’s going to kill you.”
“How far out are you? We’re still booting up all the systems up here and I don’t have you –,”
The flash of light was almost blinding at first and the explosion from the sudden impact of the ship caused Hanna fall backwards. Sean was quick to grab her just as a thruster quadrant slammed through the glass. The bay doors slammed shut the moment the air was sucked out of the flight control operations deck. The deck became cloudy as emergency oxygen pumped into the bay faster than it should have. Despite the sudden compression sickness, Sean peered through the window as he helped hanna through the debris of what looked like it used to be a wing strut that held an engine. OZone permeated the newly pumped in air.
The Nanobots, a small microscopic colony of computers designed to take matter from a stored module in Weir’s body and generate the approximation of flesh, bone, and inner components, went to work swiftly. The cosmetics were regenerated first, skin and bone, prior to the tiny machines actually connecting the internal broken components that made the first officer tick. When Weir woke up, he found himself inside a literal cloud of cold gas that used to be packed nicely into a smaller space before being blown violently into the room. He found himself on the deck in front of a pile of wreckage that looked nothing like the advanced experimental space fighter that he was commanding.
Twisted metal, singed plastic components, and shattered, shatter-proof glass surrounded him. He made out a piece of computer that used to be in the cockpit, but beyond that, he couldn’t even identify the chair that he once sat in. Weir was also wearing absolutely nothing.
“… crash was so crazy it blew the clothes off me?” He used the cover of the fog to open up a hazmat box. He pulled himself into the suit and boots just as the doors to the bay opened. He walked toward where the mists pattern changed drastically, from smooth swirls to stagnant expansion; it’s where the gravity plating met the low gravity plating. That’s where he jumped up and cleared a twenty-five foot catwalk that led toward the flight control room. Weir pulled the door open to find a Staff Sergeant carrying the Chief he was talking with, out of the wreckage that blasted through the booth.
“You guys okay?” Weir asked.
“Yeah… She hit her head but she’s okay.” Sean confirmed.
Weir held onto her left side as Sean held onto her right and they stepped off the catwalk. They fell the long distance toward the bottom deck again as the low gravity eased them down. Fire crews were inspecting the wreckage already as Weir and Sean exited the bay.
“Weir… You scratched the ship,” Hanna said between coughing.
“Singed it, not scratched it.” Weir corrected.
“No,” Sean said. “I’m pretty sure once my crew steam cleans the deck, they’re going to find a scratch.”
“I was breaking it in!”
Weir pulled on another commander’s uniform; basically, a blue jumpsuit with plenty of pockets, and three stripes on his collar to indicate his rank. He never had to work on a credit restriction before; he was used to the military. The more his credits ran up, the more agitated he got that some engineer on Earth caused him to lose all his belongings and possessions. He was glad he kept his most valuable possessions on Earth. He had a feeling something catastrophic might happen to the ship, the mission, or both. He just never assumed that the catastrophe would happen right out of Orbit. That was ten uniforms, and he had no idea that they were fifteen credits a piece. He decided to replicate four for the time being until he understood how to earn more credits for his tab. As for everything else, his quarters were well stocked. He had a nice window that overlooked Earth at the moment, and that window extended the length of his bed. Across from his bed was a desk and a computer. Next to that was his closet. Tucked into the far corner of the room was the bathroom and a mini-shower. The entire area was open to prevent the sensation of being cramped; it also meant that people would have to leave his quarters just for him to take a shower. The entire area was warmly lit by artificial incandescent lighting that lined the corners of the compartment. Weir hung the Hazmat suit in his closet since there was no real reason to return it to the hangar deck. Some things actually were free; safety gear was free.
Weir walked onto the bridge after a brisk, one minute walk. The bridge compartment was placed at the very nose of the ship. It surrounded in a wrap-around transparent alloy canopy, something he was used to seeing in certain types of small scout ships and recon craft but never a main starship like the Yutomaky.
The bridge was arranged on platforms which were also see-through, except for the structural beams and conduits of electronic and power circuits. The overall sensation on the bridge was an impressive view of all the space around them and the accompanying sense of being very small, very insignificant, and very vulnerable. Though Weir had no issues with any of those, as he was more in awe of the difference in design to other ships he’d been aboard, and he knew the transparent alloy was triple-layered and had the same armor rating as the rest of the hull.
“Welcome aboard,” said a 6ft tall, white, 30-something, black-haired man as he stood up from the captain’s chair and joined Weir.
They were alone. The lights and computers were off and on standby. It was just them and the glow of the sun and earth.
“Thanks,” Weir said.
“I’m Weston McArthur, I’ll be captaining the ship. I’ll start by saying I have no idea what I’m doing.”
His expression was dry to the point Weir couldn’t tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.
“Please don’t think that means I’m incompetent,” Weston continued.
“I didn’t think that at all,” Weir said with a smile.
“Yeah, I know, because you discussed solutions to your problem before damaging the ship or endangering the crew you’re responsible for now.”
Weir knew he was being sarcastic now. He was wondering if this was going to be another asshole in charge. It would be a very long trip if so. Weir subtly moved so he was standing at parade rest.
“I appreciate that you’re a decorated war veteran and renowned test pilot and that means you come from those cultures and ways of thinking. Any landing you walk away from is a good landing. Small craft are expendable, and tearing the carrier deck a new asshole with your flaming piece of shit fighter is SOP and the admiral gives you a medal.”
Weston gave a dramatic pause. “I need you to re-adjust your thinking.” Weston tapped a console and it immediately lit, and a hologram was hovering in front of them showing the primary structural frame of the Yutomaky.
“Your crash landing was impressive. You bounced off the bulkhead. You BOUNCED!” Weston looked at Weir. “I mean, in terms of physics, that’s the fucking worst. You know you should be dead, right?”
Weston looked back at the hologram and pointed at the frame. “The force of that bounce vibrated through the bulkhead and into the ship’s frame and continued vibrating halfway down the ship. It set off half a dozen structural integrity notifications. Thankfully not warnings, just notifications. It didn’t cause any significant damage… yet.”
Weston turned fully back to Weir. “You see, we’re not going to have any starbases or dry docks to use where we’re going. Even though we have industrial fabricators, it’s unrealistic to say we’ll be tearing down the ship to its frame for its annual mandatory overhaul like any other ship or even the fighters you’re familiar with. We’re going to be dodging between binary black holes and surfing event horizons years or even months from now. Do you really want to be wondering if the frame is going to buckle because of a bounce test?”
“Sir, may I?” Weir said.
“Go right the fuck ahead, relax. You’re not in the military anymore.”
Weir did relax and stood like he was shooting the breeze in the mess with fellow pilots. “I only had two options, make an intercept with the shuttle bay or burn up in the atmosphere. I can survive a crash but I can’t survive a few hundred degrees.”
“Burn into escape velocity, pop a beacon and call me for SAR,” Weston said.
“I would’ve been out there for hours assuming nothing else went wrong, and by then you may not even find me.”
“Less than a minute,” Weston said. “Five seconds to jump into your path, about thirty seconds to cram you up my ass, and another five seconds to jump back to course for the other fighters.”
Weir looked confused. “Jump drive? You mean FTL? It’s not that fast and it’s illegal in Earth orbit.”
Weston smiled brightly. “Not FTL, jump drive. This entire ship can translocate to anywhere else in less than five seconds.”
“It can?” Weir stared off as the concept sunk in. “Can’t we just jump to the galactic core and be back for supper then?”
“We could, but we might exit in the middle of a planet or star. It works best when you know the area you’re jumping to has a very low particle density, specifically the kind of density of empty void.”
“How does that even work?” Weir said.
“Magic!” Weston said with a laugh. “Sorry, it’s very classified and all that. As a test pilot you understand. I need you to adjust your thinking. All those military ways of doing this are fine, but we are only getting one row boat for this trip. We all need it in tip top shape. If you’re in a bind, and your solution involves another bounce test, maybe you should ask the brains in the crew for some better ideas. We have all the brightest rejects in Opsfleet for this.”
“…Rejects?” Weir said picking out the one word.
“Yeah, it’s a suicide mission. They don’t want us to come back, so they gave me ones they don’t want to keep. We’re probably going to have a lot of drama and infighting. Oh right.” Weston pointed at Weir. “Good cop.” Weston pointed at himself. “Bad cop.”
Weir gave Weston a ‘you can’t be serious’ glare. “Speaking of which, I need you to get the crew together for the briefing. You need to modify your prototypes to work with the modular storage system, as well as replace the fighter that failed the bounce test, and repair the flight bay. That means fabrication and mining. Get with the heads of those departments for that stuff. Those candyass shitbirds that ignored Reece will be doing all the labor of fixing the flight deck.”
“What exactly are we going to be doing?” Weir asked. “You say we’re going on a suicide mission and surfing event horizons. Are you for real?”
“As soon as we’re out of human space we’re gonna do whatever we want.” Weston sat back down in the command chair. “First earth-like world we find we’re gonna set down and have beach parties until the probes and drones finish cataloguing the entire planet.”
“Can I modify or create fighters and shuttles?” Weir asked.
“As long as you don’t scratch my ship,” Weston said. “Just keep in mind you still have to mine the material to use in the fabricators. You might not find mining rings and asteroid belts for days all that exciting.”
When the next round of fighters came in, another pilot had to abort and return back to earth. There was something seriously wrong with the new fighters and Weir was determined to find out. Several other pilots arrived to see the new fighter that Weir was working on. They watched as Weir pulled components out from behind the fighter and threw them onto the bay haphazardly. Some components shattered on impact; brand new components like memory drives, input boards, processors of a type that some of the best computer programmers had no idea existed yet – all trashed.
“Commander,” some of the young pilots said. Some even saluted even though Weir was busy with his head in the craft. “What are you doing?”
“I’m gutting the fighter…” Weir said.
“Because I’m going to take the computing sections of the old fighters and put them in here.” Weir said. “I need to get my hands on some old boards and you guys are going to help me.” The fit, blonde commander slid down the ladder to the ground. His feet caused more crunching sounds as more computing components were destroyed under the crushing weight of his boots.
“Ready for some SAR and then some scavenging?” Weir asked.
“Or should we scavenge first?” Weir wondered.
“Your CAG had to ditch his fighter while trying to get into orbit. He’s stuck in the South Asian Territories, bobbing on a float somewhere.”
Weir turned to see who he was talking with. He was a tall, dark skinned man with Lieutenants bars and flight wings sewn into his blue flight suit. He was young and confused. Weir couldn’t help but grin.
“I’m joking! We got to go get her right now. Who do we have for Auxiliary Recovery?”
“Can’t we get SAR on Earth to get her?”
“Oh it’s a she?” Weir said. “Well, we need the practice if we’re going to be on our own.” Weir walked into the middle of the bay and looked around. “Where’s the recovery craft?”
“It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, Commander.” The Lieutenant said. Weir took a quick glance at his tag.
“Lieutenant Michell… What is that?” Weir pointed directly over their heads to a large, heavily armed vessel docked on the ceiling and apart from the rest of the other craft. It was a bulky looking vessel that looked like hell-in-stars that nobody would want to mess with.
“That is the… I don’t know.” Mitchell shrugged his shoulders. Weir grinned again as he tapped the wrist-com that every crew member had on their arm.
“Computer. Identify the large vessel docked directly above my head please.”
A robotic female voice replied to Weir’s request.
The craft you are most likely referring to is the Marine Reconnaissance Craft, or MRC. Identified as the MRC CHARGER.
“We got Marines onboard?” Weir’s expression changed, jaw half dropped, eyes wide.
Lieutenant Mitchell just sighed.
“Well…” Weir said. “Let’s see about getting Earth to help with the SAR. We can get our practice in later.”
“Of course!” Lieutenant Mitchell said enthusiastically.
“Fuck that…” Weir added.
“Yeah,” Mitchell said. “Fuck that…”
Weir tapped his wrist-com again.
“Commander Weir to Communications.”
“Send a downlink to SAR. Have them retrieve ….” Weir stopped a second and pulled a small data-sheet out of his pocket, unfolded it, and tapped the paper. The paper turned black and green words scrolled down the length of the leaflet. He tapped a few places on the paper to get the crew manifest to show. “… Lieutenant Commander Jaime Whitman’s last location and lock on their ELT to retrieve her.”
There was a few moments of silence and then he heard Captain McArthur’s voice on the comm’s.
“Commander, Yutomaky Actual. Get a hold of Lieutenant Olsen and have the Marines spot you. They need the practice. Out.”
Weir turned around to see Lieutenant Mitchell briskly walking away. He didn’t want any part of it. Weir sighed and shook his head slowly. Weir tapped his wrist-com again.
“Commander Weir to Lieutenant Olsen.”
“Olsen here, Commander.” He could hear a lot of commotion in the background of his comm’s. Specifically, a very loud female voice dropping profanities in the background regarding some sort of card game they were playing.
“Gather your team. We have a SAR.”
Weir found himself in the back of a transport with a group of Marines. The rumbling of the transport ceased when the craft pulled away from the walls of the shuttle bay. The Marines were not in full gear; they had made the decision on attire based on the type of job they’d be doing and the outcome of that decision dictated basic military clothing that any officer or crew member could buy from a post exchange. Military, yes, but not exactly uniform attire. The loudest Marine in the room was a female. Weir couldn’t help but smile the more she talked. His original apprehension over calling the Marines subsided a little when he discovered just what sort of work relationship was developing amongst the ranks; it didn’t disappoint. He watched as the medium height blonde woman handed off tools to the other Marines.
“But it’s brand new!” A semi heavyset corporal said as she handed him a rubber mallet used to fix minor cosmetic damage on equipment. Weir observed as the master chief narrowed her eyes on the corporal and started swinging the mallet in his general direction as if choosing to threaten him with a deflated head rather than simply ordering him to do so. The Marines were like that; they respected the rank but they didn’t covet the position.
“Corporal… I swear to fucking god you fucking fuck, if you don’t properly get unfucked and proceed to fuck things the Marine way, I’m going to stick this mallet so far up your fucking ass that the only rubber you’ll ever see again is what comes out of your mouth!”
Corporal Penn took the mallet from her hand and leaned back against the wall. He was sitting next to Weir. He sighed through his lips and looked over at Weir.
“Commander… Don’t take it personally what you hear. This is just what you expect with the Marines.”
“What are you all doing?” Weir asked as he watched her hand tools to the other two Marines in the back of the transport.
“It’s SOP that if it’s not broken, it’s not fixed.” Corporal Pen practically narrated while pointing the rubber mallet at the Marines that looked as if they were popping off locks, pulling out covers to emergency medical equipment and gutting key parts of the ship. “… in all old transports, things break in a certain order and the Marines don’t have time to get used to a well oiled machine. What you see here is standard placement and preparedness. The medkit panels wear out in the first two years, and most assault craft’ are over two years old. The panels are shit and already flapping in the wind by the time a team mans the vehicle. When seconds count, we need everything already worn in the way we’d expect it to be because it could save a life.” Penn held out his hand. “I’m Andrew… Nice to meet you, man…”
“Weir…” He took his hand and shook it.
“Who the FUCK put the bail-out packs in the EEC!”
Master Chief Hanks pulled out five EM Chutes from the Emergency Egress Container and zip tied them to the side of the airlock so that they could be pulled away. She looked to Commander weir. “Yeah, yeah… Commander… It looks like shit but when it hits the fan, you’re ready to grab the fucker and jump the fuck out! Do you really want to be tryin’ ta even try an’ open up the fucking EEC when the ships on fire, the inertial compensators are down, and the whole fucker’s spinning topsie? I think the fuck not…”
“I wasn’t saying anything…” Weir shrugged his shoulders.
“I wasn’t fuckng asking!” She grabbed hold of a metal brace in the ceiling where Andrew had already slammed the mallet into and pulled the inner cosmetic hull away from. It was obvious that it was a stretegic way of allowing people to stand up on two feet when the inertial dampers were fighting with the shiles as they bounced into heavy winds outside. She held her hand out out after dropping the mallet on the floor. Weir shook it. “I’m Jenn… So you’re the man in charge?”
“Second in command,” Weir said. The craft was starting to buffet and jerk but with the way the Marines were reconfiguring and weathering the insides, it was obvious they knew what they were doing. Everyone had something to hold onto.
“Like I said. You’re the man in charge… The captain’s got better shit to do. He deals with the ship, you deal with the crew. You deal with me… Fucker…”
She had that way of cursing at you and making you feel respected. But then again, he imagined that if she were ever polite, it would mean a major insult. Weir knew the type; not many people could pull it off but when they can, they can…
Weir looked over to another man that didn’t even look as if he were military. He was obviously seasoned. Long blonde ponytail that was out of regulation, cargo pants with a civilian knockoff Military camo pattern in dark green, standard issue boots, and a pistol that wasn’t regulation but obviously custom. What really brought out Weir’s curiosity was the strange glasses he wore.
“You have a staring problem, bud?” He was nonchalant while asking, but he didn’t even bother to look over at Weir. He just kept his eyes trained at a section of deck between his boots.
“I’m Weir, nice to meet you.” Weir waited for a response. The only thing he got was his gaze met for a moment.
“Not your friend, sir…”
“Well, what should I call you?”
“You’re my superior officer. I get the whole friendly routine and I see what you’re trying to do but with all due respect, I’m not that kind of guy. I’m not here to shit i\on your strip steak but I do my own thing and beyond our work relationship, I don’t want any fluff. And I’m not asking if that’s okay, I’m just telling you how it is. This thing… You’re trying to do.” He pointed at the length of deck between his feet and Weir’s… “Not gonna happen.”
“Perhaps if you wore a standard uniform, I’d know your last name.”
“It’s Loud… Gordon Loud, sir.”
“He heard you were working on downgrading the new software while you let an officer languish out there, feet wet.” Came another voice. “Naturally he’s pissed.”
Suddenly, Master Chief Jenn Hanks started laughing.
“You fucking did-not!” She replied with a chuckle.
“Excuse me!” Gordon yelled while pulling a Ka-Bar from his sheeth and pointing at the other man. Weir looked over to see that the Sergeant to see that he wasn’t the least bit phased by the apparent death threat. Weir looked back to Gordon.
“How long have we known each other?” Gordon asked.
“All of six hours…” The man said.
“Just because you’re the medic doesn’t mean you have divine power to put words in my mouth, speak for me, or assume to have an inkling of what goes through my mind. If I catch you do that again, we’re going to need another medic. I don’t play that shit…”
“Sergeant Eric Morley… Or Doctor Morley…” Eric said as he nodded to Weir. “Life saver, and the best damned combat doctor in the galaxy…”
“Combat Medic,” Master Chief Hanks corrected.
“I received my master’s degree at the prestigious university of New Florence on Mars… I have a doctorate and a license to practice.”
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Jenn asked.
“None of your business, but I am a doctor.”
“How did you do that?” Weir asked.
“Used the Military as my ticket. Studied my ass off!” Eric said.
The craft leveled out and the pilot’s voice chimed over the internal PA.
“Alright bitches… Grab your floaties and ball warmers! It’s time to go bobbing for Oops Fleet Nuggets” The voice seemed to echo throughout the interior in a monotone frequency. Despite what was said, the pilot managed to pull off making it sound professional and practiced. The interior lights turned off and for a moment, the were in complete darkness until the side door opened and flooded the crew bay with natrual sunlight. The wind began to blast through as the back door opened as well.
That’s when Gordon grabbed Weir by his arm and pulled him toward the back opening. Weir went along with it because he wanted to see the condition of the craft. Lieutenant Commander Jaime Whitman’s boots were hanging off the end of a sun-shielded raft full of provisions. She pulled the top cover away and stood up on top of the ridged hull of the raft. She looked as if she had been recently dunked in water, with straight black, short hair waving in the warm sea breeze. She straightened her flight suit and then pointed to her wrist watch that she wasn’t actually wearing. Instead she tapped the communicator wrapped around that wrist and yelled into it. A voice chimed over Commander Weir’s wrist-com.
“If you’re looking for the fighter, you’re going to need a submarine to get it. Can you guys hold on for a moment? I’m almost done reading a good book!”
Weir started laughing. That’s when Gordon Loud pushed him out of the rear of the lander as it hovered twenty feet over the water.