Characters: Verroel & Fi
Location: Roetingaz Station (Starport)
Verroel and Fi make their way back to the central elevator shaft and stop in
front of an information kiosk. They ask it where Kukagerrg's ship, the
Arraerouksagkor, is parked. Once they get that information, they hop
aboard an elevator car and descend several levels to the commercial district.
Exiting the elevator, the pair walk past shops, brokerages, and warehouses. The place is busy with commerce. Eventually they make their way to the outer wall and come across the door to the docking bay for Kurkagerrg's ship. Nearby a few vargr appear to be going over the contents of a crate outside of a warehouse. A pair of station technicians are looking over a junction box.
Verroel hits a button on the wall panel to call the transport pod over, just like the one they took from their hangar bay to the main station.
The pod doesn't come over. Instead, a voice emanates from a speaker, "Yeah?"
"Hello! This is Verroel and Fi Khong. We're here to see Captain Kukagerrg. We were hanging out with at the Vargr Cowboy."
"Hold on a sec. Let me check with him. He's down in the bay." Several seconds go by, then the voice comes back. "Ok. Come on in."
A panel light switches from red to green, and the transport pod comes over to your side. Once inside, the pod door closes, there's a brief sensation of movement, and seconds later the door on the other side of the pod opens to reveal that they're at the hangar bay.
Stepping out, the Arraerouksagkor draws their attention. Verroel feels a tug of nostalgia as he takes in the sight of the old Ueknou class corsair. There are some new scratches and blast marks, but the old markings are still there.
Several crewwolves are going about loading the ship. Kukagerrg is conferring with one of them, going over something on a datapad on the far side of the bay. The sight of him sets Verroel's tail to wagging. Kukagerrg looks up and waves Verroel and Fi over.
Once they're within a few meters of him, he says, "I didn't expect to see you guys so soon. What's up?"
"We came to return your wallet. You dropped it at the bar. We figured we'd return it before we left. We've got cargo and a passenger itching to go." Verroel takes the wallet out and shows it to Kukagerrg.
Kukagerrg tilts his head to the side. "That's not my wallet." He then pulls out a completely different looking one.
"But it's got your ID in it. See?" Verroel shows him.
A commotion behind Verroel and Fi grabs Kukagerrg's attention. Turning around, the pair see the transport pod has just released several vargr into the hangar bay. A crewwolf trots over to the group, demanding to know what they want. One of the interlopers guns him down.
Fi spots a standard 1 dton shipping container three meters to his left and dives for it with a warning howl.
Verroel's ears draw back for a moment in puzzlement, and then he dives for cover with Fi. Once safely behind the container, he looks about for a weapon, but doesn't see any. He says, "That bitch. This may have been a set-up to get into the dock."
The ship's crew in the bay and the interlopers exchange gunfire.
Kukagerrg fires a couple of shots from his pistol before joining Fi and Verroel behind the container. He says, "What the fukh did you dogs do?"
Verroel quickly explains that the wallet was given to them by a bitch back at the bar while Kukagerrg fires from concealment.
Kukagerrg growls. "You better not be lying to me, or I'll—"
His threat is interrupted by the thump of a grenade landing on the bay floor. It doesn't bounce, sticking to the floor with some kind of resin. It immediately starts releasing a cloud of white smoke.
Verroel takes off his jacket and throws it atop the grenade. "That should buy us some time."
"To do what?" Kukagerrg barks. "We're pinned down." As if to emphasize his point, a spray of bullets slams into the crate the group is hiding behind.
Fi growls in frustration as he waits for an opportunity to present itself. Peril-induced adrenaline has flushed the lingering effects of the alcohol from his system. He turns to Kukagerrg and barks, "You have anything close by we can use as weapons? We need to give these dogs what for and make them run whimpering with their tails between their legs and crying for their mothers!"
"I admire your spirit, Fi." Kukagerrg pulls a dagger from his boot and hands it to Fi. "This is all I have besides my pistol. I wasn't anticipating a firefight in my hangar bay."
A bullet ricochets off the shipping container to emphasize his point.
Suddenly, there's a whooshing sound. Kukagerrg barks, "Move!"
The trio lunge for another shipping container.
A rocket impacts the shipping container they were originally hiding behind, resulting in an explosion. Verroel is struck by a roughly half-meter chunk of the container and falls, dislodging his jacket lying atop the grenade, which then ignites. He slips into unconsciousness, though whether it's from the impact or the smoke and gas from the grenade, it's hard to tell.
Location: Roetingaz Station (Starport)
Fi and Kukagerrg manage to get to the next container unscathed, but the smoke is
making them cough. And there's nothing stopping the intruders from blowing up
this container, though the smoke from the grenade is making it difficult to see.
Between coughs, Kukagerrg points to the far wall some 10 meters away. Fi can make out an emergency "EXIT" sign. Kukagerrg swaps out his spent ammo clip and barks, "Go! I'll cover you!"
Fi is loathe to leave his captain but, with a quick glance at Verroel to see if he is moving, bolts as fast as his legs will carry him towards the exit. "I sure hope it opens and there's a shotgun behind the door!" he thinks to himself.
He slams into the door and it opens on impact. A couple of bullets strike the door above his head as he pushes through. Fi finds himself in a narrow corridor, a mere one meter in width. After he rolls off the far wall, the door shuts behind him. There's no handle on this side so re-entry isn't going to happen.
Overhead LED lights flicker on as his movement is detected. The narrow corridor appears to head back towards the interior of the station. It is empty: no tools, no weapons, just various sized conduit.
Fi curses to himself, pulling out his comms. "Vued, get over here and bring guns. We need help, the captain is down."
He gets only static in response.
Suddenly the door Fi came through bursts open. Kukagerrg scrambles in and quickly moves away from the opening, nearly bumping into Fi. Fi notes that there's a small trickle of blood coming from Kukagerrg's shoulder.
"Come on," he says, "We need to get help from station security."
"I tried calling my ship," Fi replies, "but I can't get a signal."
"Yeah, localized jammer."
Fi jogs down the short corridor until he comes to the end. There's a sliding door with a warning sign: "Caution! This is a transit corridor. Watch for vehicles."
Kukagerrg adds, "There a maintenance platform that hugs the wall on this side. It's narrow, so watch your step."
Fi nods and slides the door across. There's a rush of air with the opening of the door, and Fi steps through. The transit corridor is four lanes wide and dimly lit. Although there's no traffic now, Fi can see rail cars in the distance. Closer, and to his right, is the access tube that connects the hangar bay to the main station. The freight doors are on the far side.
"We'll need to get to the other side," Kukagerrg says, pointing. "We should be able to get a signal in the main station."
Fi sees an EXIT sign on the far side. Fi looks for a way across but doesn't see one. He's also feeling a queasiness in his belly. "How?"
"We climb over the railing and run across. Don't worry; the track isn't electrified. We do have to watch out for the trains though. Oh and that nausea you're feeling is from competing grav plates. The hangar bays are oriented differently from the station."
Fi looks down the corridor for oncoming traffic. Seeing that nothing is an immediate thread, he decides to seize the moment. The reduced gravity gives Fi the confidence to swing over the railing and down to the tracks. He deftly makes his way across the transit corridor, timing his leaps perfectly to clear the rails, and landing surely on the other side. He successfully makes it across and pulls himself up to the platform on the other side. Once up, he turns around and looks back to see that Kukagerrg is 3/4 of the way across.
A flash of light catches Fi's eye. A rail car is coming closer. Kukagerrg should make it with plenty of time. When he reaches the railing, he attempts to pull himself up, but his wounded arm is having nothing to do with it. Instinctually, Fi reaches down and helps to pull him up, though it feels like pulling him across the floor. Once Kukagerrg is on the platform he urges Fi on to the door. The pair awkwardly stumble through the door seconds before the rail car reaches them.
After taking a few seconds to get his head re-acquainted with the gravitational orientation. Fi notices that they're back in the main station, close to where they boarded the transport pod. A half dozen security personnel are at the door to that very same transport pod. Three security vehicles are parked close by and are blocking off street access. One of them notices Fi and Kukagerrg and orders them to drop their weapons and freeze. Kukagerrg complies and identifies himself. It must have convinced the officer for he visibly relaxes.
The officer leads Fi and Kukagerrg over to the others. One of them explains that they got a report of weapons' fire in the hangar bay at this location, but they're unable to investigate further as they're locked out of the transport pod controls. Kukagerrg fills them in on the situation in the bay and explains how he and Fi got out.
"Sounds like a hijacking," the officer in charge says. He further states that they'll have to try entering the bay through the emergency exit corridor that Fi just escaped through.
While the officer in charge radios traffic control to shut down all vehicles in the transit corridor, Kukagerrg pulls Fi aside. "Look, that's my ship and crew in there. I have to go back in there with them," he nods towards the security personnel, "but you don't have to. You can stay here, call your ship."
"That's my captain back there!" exclaims Fi. "Get me a weapon. I'm going back in, too!"
"You know I've only got the one. I'll see if security is willing to loan you one."
While waiting for a weapon, and hopefully armor as well, Fi gives Vued a call. He gets a clear connection this time and updates his packmate on what happened.
Vued groans at the news. "Fukh! I'll grab some gear and head on down there after I deal with our pinkie passenger."
"Bring my med kit in case the captain's badly hurt," Verroel replies.
As soon as Fi hangs up, Kukagerrg returns. "They said no. It's against station policy to loan out weapons to civvies. But they said you can still go. If you find a weapon along the way, it's yours to use."
"I'm a doctor. Can you at least get me a med pack so I can treat the wounded?"
"They might go for that." With that he heads backs over to the security personnel.
Another security vehicle shows up. Six more personnel get out. This bunch is in combat armor and armed with assault rifles. They look like they're going to be the ones leading the assault.
Kukagerrg returns with the med pack.
Fi grabs the med pack and says, "Thanks. I'll follow the rest of you in, but I'll keep my distance until I can find a weapon. Once the area is secure, I'll treat any wounded."
Kukagerrg barks in acknowledgement. He adds, "If I come across any weapons and the area I'm in is secure, I'll let you know."
The SWAT team assembles in front of the maintenance platform door, and Kukagerrg rushes over to join them. Fi takes his time as he knows he's supposed to bring up the rear.
Location: Roetingaz Station (Starport)
The SWAT team assembles in front of the maintenance platform door, and Kukagerrg
rushes over to join them. Fi takes his time as he knows he's supposed to bring
up the rear. He counts to ten after the last team member heads through the door.
Upon reaching ten, he opens the maintenance door and proceeds to the platform
that overlooks the transit corridor. Kukagerrg and the SWAT team are proceeding
across the tracks.
Fi notices that a freight car is parked in front of the hangar's cargo access door. "That wasn't there before," Fi thinks to himself. As if reading his thoughts, Kukagerrg looks over to Fi and nods. He and the SWAT team split up: Kukagerrg and half the team head into the emergency access corridor they escaped the hangar through while the rest make their across the platform to the freight car.
Fi follows Kukagerrg as that's the direction Verroel is. He deftly makes his way across the tracks and up to the platform on the far side. When Fi enters the emergency access corridor, he hears Kukagerrg shouting.
"What do you mean you can't open the door?"
An officer, standing with his back to Fi and holding a phone receiver plugged into a panel in the wall, answers, "Vacuum safety protocols are engaged. There's nothing we can do."
"We'd need a plasma torch to cut the bolts holding the doors shut. And then what? Expose the whole compartment to vacuum?"
"But they've got my crew! My ship!"
"We've already got a four patrol ships moving in to intercept. They won't get far."
"How is this happening? Why isn't the station overriding their attempts to leave?"
"The station was hacked!"
Kukagerrg growls in frustration. He mutters, "Toothless," as he brushes past the officer and makes his way down the corridor towards Fi. "Let's go, Fi. We're not getting in this way."
Fi follows Kukagerrg as he exits the emergency access corridor and walks the maintenance platform towards the cargo lock. They join the other half of the SWAT team inside the cargo door airlock. They're locked out of the hangar bay as well. Kukagerrg makes his way to the bayside door and stares through the small window. Fi stands alongside him.
A red light indicates that the hangar bay has depressurized and the outer door is opening. Fi searches the bay for signs of Verroel. He notes several bodies, but none of them are Verroel.
Once the outer bay door is open, the ship engages contragrav and lifts from the floor. The ship uses its attitude jets to rotate around to face outward. Fi notices a soft blue glow building with the main thruster cones. It suddenly dawns on him that rather than continuing to use the positioning jets to safely ease its way away from the station, they're going to use main thrusters.
Fi and Kukagerrg shout simultaneously, "Get out! Get out!" As they push the SWAT team towards the exit, they feel a rumbling all around them.
They bum rush the others through the door moments before the plasma discharge blows out the windows in the cargo door airlock. There's the distinct rush of air as the bayside airlock doors fail. Fortunately, the vacuum sucks the platform door closed and the emergency failsafe locks engage, preventing any further loss of atmosphere.
Kukagerrg and Fi exchange WTF glances before checking to make sure none of the other wolves were injured in the stampede. Shortly thereafter, the officer that Kukagerrg berated in the emergency access corridor shows up, barking for an explanation.
Kukagerrg gives it to him. "Bastards just lit up the hangar bay with thrusters."
The officer swears in anger, then says, "They won't get far. Four patrol ships are closing in on their position, and just as soon as they're clear, station defenses will open fire on them."
Kukagerrg growls. "Yeah. Open fire on my ship and crew. Just what I want to hear."
"Don't worry," the officer replies, "they'll target the thrusters."
Kukagerrg rolls his eyes. "How soon before we can get back in that bay?"
"Once we get the outer doors closed and the bay repressurized, we'll have a forensics team in there to scour the place for any clues."
Kukagerrg places his fists on his hips. "That won't take long since everything got sucked out into space."
The officer holds his paws up. "You have to—"
He's interrupted by a voice broadcast over speakers from seemingly everywhere. It's accompanied by red flashing lights all along the transit corridor.
"Attention all citizens, guests, and station personnel. Please evacuate the outer shell of the station immediately. This includes all hangar bays and observation posts."
The officer is listening intently to something over his comm during the announcement. He starts waving his wolves back towards the main station. "Get out of here now!"
"What's going on?" Kukagerrg asks, running to keep up with him.
"Those idiots went to jump too close to the station. We're about to get hit with a shockwave."
One of the first things you learn about space travel is that you don't jump when you're in a gravity well. The risk of misjump, or even a catastrophic jump drive rupture, was too great. Only the truly desperate ever tried it.
But no one ever talked about what happened in normal space when ships went to jump too deep in a gravity well. Fi learned from a physicist he dated while he was at the Merchant Academy that opening a jump space aperture messed with the fabric of normal space. The hole was generally harmless, normal space healing itself right away with barely a ripple. But open that hole within a gravity well and the fabric was torn. The universe doesn't take too kindly to that sort of thing. Like hitting a nerve. So not only did the offending ship get swatted like a mosquito, but the surrounding fabric rippled from the blow as it stitched itself back together. The deeper in the gravity well the jump, the greater the tear and the stronger the shockwave.
The SWAT team, Kukagerrg, and Fi run across the tracks desperate to get back to the inner core of the station.
Once they reach the other side of the tracks, the station announcement changes.
"Attention. Brace for impact in 10...9...8..."
"MOVE IT!" Kukagerrg barks.
The troopers scramble through the door with Fi bringing up the rear. How did that happen? he wonders.
As soon as Fi is through the door, it's bolted behind him.
Fi feels the station shudder, making his legs tremble. His ears perk up as he hears an impossibly deep pitched groan. A collective yelp of fear rises from the thousands of people on this level, and the lights flicker. And then it's over. The station has rolled with the wave and seems to have survived the shockwave.
Fi and Kukagerrg exchange glances as each breathes a sigh of relief. Both laugh nervously.
[...to be continued...]