Hay dude! Did you feel a bump?

Climbing out of his stasis pod Starhand(SH) Richard Strawbridge looked around. Off to the side he could see two of the marines stepping out of their own pods, looking back the other way SH Strawbridge could only see one other open pod but no sign of its occupant. He found himself wondering what was going on, why had the fight crew not been raised first? It was after all their responsibility to oversee the ships return to real space. Crossing over to the ships main computer SH Strawbridge starts working on accessing the ships log, he is joined at the terminal by Private Two(PT) Charlie Chiung. Seeing Strawbridge having trouble accessing the terminal PT Chiung offers to have a look for him, as SH Strawbridge steps aside he hears the sound of a door opening behind him. Looking over his shoulder he sees Private One(PO) Rhobyn O’Leary peering cautiously into the med bay, It’s difficult to see what’s going on as the ships lights are still in power saving mode as is normal for a long trip with the ship’s crew all in stasis, at over 5 years this is a particularly long one. Stepping into the med bay PO O’Leary looked around. As he wandered across the dimly lit and silent room, there was a sudden noise on the other side of the door leading into the kitchen. Pausing in front of the door, he peers through the frosted glass and listens to see if he can ascertain what may have caused the sound. As he raises his hand toward the trigger stud to open the door, there is a sudden flash of movement in the room beyond followed by the sound of rending metal. The veteran private decides that caution may be the best course of action as he is still only dressed in his underwear and retreated back into the stasis bay. On returning PO O’Leary spotted his comrades hunched over the ships computer, wandering over he tells them what happened in the med lab and asks them what they’ve found out.

PT Chiung glances up from the screen “I’ve just found the latest ships log. It looks like we were hit by something roughly 12 minutes ago!”    “Did it do any damage?” SH Strawbridge asked.     “As far as I can tell there was a brief drop in pressure. Hmm, there seems to be a problem with the navcomp, the Isler drive and stasis!” PT Chiung says reading from the screen. “It looks like the pilot was raised from stasis about 10 minutes ago but his comms signal went down about 3 minutes later.”   On hearing this SH Strawbridge stepped over to the stasis computer and brings up the last stasis log after scanning the screen he lets out a chain of expletives and frantically starts typing, bringing up a series of electrical plan and blueprints.    “What’s going on?” asked PT Chiung.   “The stasis system is failing they’re all dying!”   “What can you do about it?” PO O’Leary’s responded.   “I’m checking the system now.” A few more strikes of the keyboard later “It looks like I’m going to need to get a couple of relays out of storage, they’re in the cargo bay!”   After a quick discussion it is decided that going for the relays in the most important thing at the moment as it is a matter of life and death, it will also take them through the marines dorm where the marine kit is stored. Setting off in the direction of the cargo bay, the three comrades enter the rec room, a large area reminiscent of a high school gymnasium.

Suddenly PO O’Leary stops “Did you hear that?”   “Hear what?” PT Chiung asked.    Suddenly there was a loud clang and the sound of scurrying feet from behind the wall to their extreme right.   “THAT!”  Exclaimed PO O’Leary   “Yea, I heard it.” SH Strawbridge replied. “It sounds like it’s coming from the service tunnels between the ships inner and outer skins.”    “Come on let’s keep moving the sooner I’m dressed, armed and armoured, the better I’ll feel.”  PT Chiung Said.    And so our intrepid threesome head on. Entering the marine dorm they slowly and cautiously make their way to the bunkhouse. As they get dressed, strapping on their armour and checking their weapons they continue to hear the strange noises coming from the walls. At one point they hear a piercing shriek that leaves them leaves them with a ringing in their ears and a nauseous felling in their stomachs. After they are dressed the three of them step back out into the communal area. Just at that moment a hatch in the wall explodes out into the room, closely followed by a shape about the size of a large dog. On hitting the floor the thing turned and emitted a god awful sound, covering their ears the two marines are forced to their knees in a puddle of their own vomit. Out of desperation SH Strawbridge raises his assault rifle towards the shadowy shape, barely visible in the half light. Not in any hope of doing any real damage, more in the hope of buying his comrades some time to recover, he was after all an engineer not a soldier. Firing off a short burst into the semi darkness, his heart sank. Just as he feared his shots go wide of their mark, serving only to draw the thing attention to him. With a single bound the thing was amongst them. Teeth and claws flashing as it struck out at our young Starhand. The things claws cut furrows into SH Strawbridge’s body armour, but luck was o his side as none of the attacks penetrated far enough to draw blood.

Seeing his navel colleague in trouble PO O’Leary, fighting against his nausea brings his rifle to bear on the creature sending a spray of round into it. Most of the shots appeared to bounce off its chitinous hide, but several punched through all but ripping one of the things arms off. But before their very eyes the thing seemed to flow back together around the wound, reforming and rebuilding the arm. The shock of seeing this cleared the last of the fog from their minds and all three of them laid down a hellish barrage of fire. The creature withstood the rain of bullets and continued to retaliate but with little effect. Seeing that the marines seemed to have things well in hand, SH Strawbridge circled around the edge of the conflict adding what fire he could before heading through the doors into the cargo bay. After a quick look around to make sure he was in no imminent danger, SH Strawbridge headed over to the storage lockers that the spares are stored in. As he started to work his way along the lockers looking for the correct one there was a loud shriek from the other side of the expansive bay, this was answered by two more closer at hand. Ears ringing and a knot forming in his stomach he redoubled his efforts to find the elusive relays.   Come on, come on, where are they?

Opening yet another lock he spots a rack of relays and fuses.  At Last! E524.15 where are you?  With that thought still running through is mind he hears the sound of movement behind him. Turning slowly, the junior engineer sees two of the creatures approaching down an alley between stacks of crates. Just then a third jumps onto a large packing crate in front of him and lets out a powerful shriek. SH Strawbridge clamps his hands over his ears but to no avail, slumping to his knees the young Starhand promptly voided himself. Meanwhile the creatures continue to close in for the kill. Dazed and disoriented SH Strawbridge climbed laboriously to his feet, preparing to meet the onslaught. The first of the creatures to attack him was different instead of the claws that its kin had, this one had long bony protrusions with a serrated edge about the size of a machete. SH Strawbridge backed up under the assault, firing off bursts with his assault rifle. A lucky burst hit the lead creature square in the chest but like the first creature in the other room, the wound just healed itself. Seizing on this as his only chance to make good his escape, turns and grabs the relays from the locker and makes for the door. The other two creatures had joined their brother by now and were closing in again. As he backed off, firing short bursts from his rifle in the hope of slowing the inevitable advance, it struck him that these ones seemed a little bigger than the other one. Bursting back through the door into the dorm, SH Strawbridge just had time to take note of the first creature fleeing out of the room in the direction of the rec room before spinning around and slamming his hand onto the close stud for the door, opening a panel below the button he flicked the switch to lock it. Seconds later there was a heavy impact on the reinforced glass door cracking it. Turing to his comrades he could see that neither of them was seriously hurt.    “We had better get moving, there are three more of the things in there they’re bigger than your one!”        “Did you get the relays?” Asks PT Chiung, Reloading the rifle “Damn, this thing is useless it kicks like a mule, I need something lighter!”

“Yes I got the relays let’s get out back before we lose the entire crew!” With that they set off back to the stasis chamber. As they cross the rec room PO O’Leary who is on point while PT Chiung is bringing up the rear, glanced back over his shoulder  “Did anyone else notice that as those things repaired themselves it seemed to reduce their overall mass? I think the only way to finish them off is to reduce their mass sufficiently that they can no longer heal themselves!”

With that PO O’Leary pressed the stud to open the door to the stasis chamber. Peering in, he sweeps his rifle back and forward covering the whole room. When he’s happy that all is clear he steps into the room. As his companions follow him in he lets out a loud curse. Following his gaze they can see what has upset him so much. Two of the stasis pods have been smashed open and their interiors are covered in blood and gore.   “Shit! It’s eating to replenish its lost mass.”  Turning around to look at the engineer, he sweeps his rifle around in an arc taking in the stasis pods.  “Get these things fixed! We need these people out of their pods.”   “I’m on it!” Says SH Strawbridge, turning to remove an access hatch.    Looking in through the opening Strawbridge steels himself and climbs inside. The service tunnel is just large enough to allow him to stand, but not wide enough for two to walk side by side.   It looks like I’m on my own! 

Heading down the tunnel he notes that the linking hatch to the tunnel running down the side of the rec room is sealed and intact. Breathing a little easier he continues along the tunnel. Reaching the turning that will take him behind the ranks of stasis pods on this side of the room he pauses. Glancing around the corner he sees no sign of any danger, taking a deep breath the young engineer hurries along to the control panel. Fumbling through his pouches he pulls out a relay, ripping off the cover he removes the old one. Try as he might he can’t seem to get it to fit, looking closely at it he realises that it’s the wrong one, it must have got mixed on the peg. Dropping the useless relay, he rummages in his pouches again and pulls out another one. This time he takes his time checking he has the right one. He then removes the cover and fits it into place, a small smile crosses his lips as the panel come to life. After a moment Strawbridge comes to himself, and gives a little shiver.

Come on man, there’s still one to go.   With that he hurries back to the main room and the other service hatch. Opening the hatch Strawbridge could just make out the remains of the hatch leading down that side of the rec room. Checking his ammo load and breach, the young man once again climbs into a dark, narrow passage. Cautiously approaching the hatchway he peers down the adjoining tunnel.   Nothing.   With the way ahead clear he moves on to the corner quickly, there he stops and takes a quick look around it. Again all looks clear so he moves on. Reaching the control panel he takes things slower checking that he has the right relay before fitting it in place. Again the board lights up, satisfied that he has done all he can he heads back to the stasis room.

Meanwhile the two marines are covering the doors to the marine’s dorm. They can still hear the sounds of heavy impacts on the cargo bay door.  It won’t be long now, that door can’t hold much longer! PT Chiung thought to himself.  At that moment SH Strawbridge climbed out of the service tunnel, and headed across to the hatch on the opposite side of the room.   “How’s it going?” He asks.   Strawbridge barely breaks stride.    “I’m getting there. I’ve got that one working, one more to go.” He replies.   “Okay, but hurry it up. I don’t think the cargo bay doors will hold much longer!”  With that SH Strawbridge opened the service hatch, removed the magazine from his assault rifle, checks it and then checks his breach is clear before heading into the tunnel. As he headed into the hatch PT Chiung found himself thinking.

I suppose all we can do now is wait!   With that he settled down to await the return of the engineer. It was about 5 minutes later when he did reappear, he climbed out of the hatch and trotted across to the stasis computer.   “Are you finished?” PO O’Leary calls.   “Nearly, I’ve replaced the two relays. I just need to shut down and reboot the computer, it won’t take long.” While he is talking the screen in front of him goes blank. A moment or two later the screen light up again. “Ah! Here we go. Okay, it looks like the only survivors are the second pilot and the doctor.”  “That’s a shame, but at least the pilot will be able to land this crate.” O’Leary replied.    “How long till their up and about?” PT Chiung asked    “The system won’t wake them until it stabilizes their vitals, About 15 minutes.”  After a shot discussion they decided that waiting around was a waste of time and they should head for the bridge, where they could access the navcomp and the engineering logs. With the decision made they set off in the direction of the bridge. Passing through the med bay, PO O’Leary opened the door to the kitchen. Just beyond the doorway they could see that the service hatch had been ripped from the wall.   “So that’s what the noise was!”

Heading on they start to pass through the crews quarters, locking the doors behind them as they go, in the hope of slowing the creatures down. As they enter the navigators quarters PO O’Leary bring them to a holt, peering through the doorway past his colleagues, PT Chiung can just make out the remains of the missing pilot. After PO O’Leary made a sweep of the room they all entered and locked the door.   “It looks like he was fleeing away from the flight deck when he was set upon from behind.” PT Chiung said looking round the room.  He then knelt beside the body and takes the pistol still gripped in his dead hand.   “Sorry my friend, but I think I can make better use of this than you.”   Quickly searching the body he finds a couple of extra magazines and puts them in one of his pouches. Slinging his assault rifle over his shoulder he doles out the remainder of the rifles ammo. As they prepare to move on they hear a loud crash from the direction of the cargo bay.

“It sounds like they’re on their way. Let’s get moving.” PT Chiung said turning to look towards the rear of the ship.  With that PO O’Leary pressed the stud to open the doors to the pilot’s quarters. After a brief inspection PO O’Leary crossed the room, heading for the door to the flight deck.   “Watch yourselves! there could be a whole hoard of the things in here. You two cover the door I’ll open it and get clear.”   Once he was happy that they had the door covered as best they could he pressed the stud. The doors swished open revealing an empty, silent room. PT Chiung stepped through the doorway, pistol raised he scanned the room.  “Clear!”

Hearing that SH Strawbridge entered the room, followed by PO O’Leary who turned, closed and locked the door. Outside the sound of the approaching creatures was getting louder, as yet another door shattered under their unrelenting onslaught. PT Chiung took up a covering position in front of the door way and was soon joined by PO O’Leary, whilst SH Strawbridge headed over to the navcomp. PT Chiung soon started to hear a steady stream of muttering coming from that direction. Just then there was a heavy impact on the door shattering it glancing over his shoulder PT Chiung shouted to SH Strawbridge.   “Strawbridge their here, get that thing working!”

Returning his attention to the doorway he added a steady stream of fire to that of his colleague. The hail of bullets barely slowed the first one and it was soon in amongst them, its buddies milling in the other room. Suddenly SH Strawbridge came hurtling past him and launched himself at the thing, landing a powerful kick. Unfortunately the kick just bounced off the things thick hide, but that didn’t deter Strawbridge who started trading blows with the creature. Chiung let out an exasperated breath as his line of fire was compromised by Strawbridge. PO O’Leary checked his fire and moved for a better line.   “Will somebody get that damned computer running, so that we can get out of here?”

“I can’t seem to get it working, I think its dead.” SH Strawbridge replied.    Hearing this PO O’Leary spat out a curse and fired off a long burst of rounds at the creature attacking Strawbridge, finally finishing it off. At the sight of its fallen comrade, one of the creatures in the other room let out a shriek felling our three heroes. With that they both leaped into the room, falling on our brothers in arms with a vengeance. One attacking PO O’Leary, the other SH Strawbridge. As the effects of the shriek subsided the two UTRPF employees started to retaliate, laying down a steadily increasing rate of fire. Seeing that his friends had everything under control, even if they were starting to look a little battle weary, PT Chiung darted over to the navcomp hoping that Strawbridge had missed something. Leaning over the keyboard Chiung tapped some of the keys.   Nothing! Oh well you know what they say, if in doubt turn it off and on again.   Reaching for the power button he noticed something, changing what he was going to do Chiung reached over and turned on the monitor.   “You idiot Strawbridge!” He shouted “They’ve switched the monitors off to save energy.”   Strawbridge was too busy to answer, so Chiung turned back to the screen which was now showing a report, at the bottom of which it confirmed that files had been corrupted and that a system shut down and reboot was required. Reaching over he initiated the process and turn back to the fight, as he did a second of the creatures was torn apart by the combined fire of his colleagues. Anticipating the effect this was likely to have on the remaining creature Chiung clamped his hands aver his ears and braced himself for the inevitable. True to form there was a shriek emitted by the thing, being prepared seemed to help stave off the worst of the effects. Ears ringing Chiung opened fire with his pistol, emptying the last of his clip into the thing, distracting it long enough for the others to regain their feet and add their fire to his. They finished off the last creature in relatively short order. As they catch their breath SH Strawbridge headed over to the main computer system, in the hope of accessing the engineering logs. After checking that there was no immediate risk of attack, Chiung wondered over to see how he was getting on. Peering over Strawbridge’s shoulder he noted that the screen was still blank.

“How’s it going?” he asked.   “I can’t seem to get the one working either. There must be something wrong with the power supply to the bridge.” Strawbridge replied, sounding worried.   Chiung reached over and switched on the monitor. “Didn’t you hear me tell you about the monitors?”  Strawbridge looked a little upset. “No I didn’t, I guess with all this fighting the stress must be getting to me.”   Chiung put his hand on his friends shoulder. “Its okay, Just try to calm down we can’t have you making simple errors. We all need to keep focus if we hope to come through this alive.”    “Okay, I’ll do my best.”   “Now, what’s this thing telling you?” Indicating the now illuminated screen.

SH Strawbridge turned to look over the readings. “It looks like there’s a ruptured pipe leading to jump pod 12.” He looked back over his shoulder. “That’s right at the back of the ship, we will have to pass through the cargo bay!”   “If there’s no other way we had better get going, plus this will give us a chance to check in on the survivors.” Chiung turned and informed O’Leary of what the report said.  There was no discussion, no debate, this had to be done. Making their way cautiously back to the stasis chamber. They were a little surprised that there were no more attacks along the way.   Maybe we’ve got them all? Chiung found himself thinking as they entered the chamber.   Strawbridge headed straight over to the stasis computer. A couple of seconds later he tapped a key, there was a loud hiss and two of the pods started to open. A few minutes later the pilot and doctor were standing in the middle of the room facing the three of them. O’Leary presented himself and out lined to the pilot what had happened.   “Oh! What are your plans now?” She asked.   “We were heading for the engines.” O’Leary replied. “But we are under your command now, as you are the highest ranking amongst us.”   “No! I think you should continue as you planned, but the doc and I should head for the Bridge.”  O’Leary squared him shoulders. “I think you should stay with us, a large group may have a better chance!”

The pilot paused for a moment before replying. “I don’t care much for your tone Private. Let me clarify this for you, if I am in the bridge then I will be ready to get us back into real space when you get the engine fixed.”   “Suppose it’s for the best, but I insist that we escort you while you collect your kit and get set up on the bridge.” O’Leary said, looking a little put out.  The pilot paused again before answering. “Okay, but let’s get a move on!” with that the pilot turned and lead the way out of the room.  They moved quickly but quietly through the ship towards the front, PO O’Leary moved ahead again to take the lead. The group stopped twice along the way, once for the doc’s Kit, and once for the pilot’s. On arriving at the bridge the pilot moved over to the flight controls and systematically started firing up the board, meanwhile the doctor took up a covering position overlooking the doorway. Realising that they were still there the pilot looked back over her shoulder.   “I think we’re set mow, you can get on with fixing the engine. If we have any problems I’ll call you on the comms.”   With that she reached over and toggled a switch, as she did so the three of them heard their helm arrays crackle into life.   “Right, we’ll be as quick as we can. You just be ready to get this tub back into real space!”  With that out three worn and weary combatants set off for the cargo bay again. Climbing over the debris left by the pursuing creatures, the three UTRPF troopers entered the cargo bay.    “Okay, jump pod 12 is in the far left hand corner. We need to head over to the loading doors on that side, so that I can gain access to the service tunnels.” As they set off, there was a series of loud barks and howls coming from around the cargo bay. These were answered by a much louder, deeper cry, as if from something larger than those that created the first set of sounds and they were closing in.   “You go on, we’ll hold them here.” PO O’Leary said, sending SH Strawbridge on his way.   PT Chiung turned to face the direction of the oncoming creatures. Strawbridge hurried through the warren of passages and allies created by the stacked crates. As he drew near his destination, he started to find large pieces of debris and the remains of packing crates. As he heads on rifle fire starts to echo around the bay. “Contact!”   PO O’Leary’s voice comes over his comms.

Coming out of the alleyway, he comes into view of the side doors. Looking for the service hatch, he notices that a large area of the far wall had been blown in and the opening is filled with an organic matter, almost like a puss filled boil. Tapping the activation stud on the side of his helmet SH Strawbridge contacted his colleagues.   “This ways blocked! I have to go down to the rear doors.”  “Copy that, be as quick as you can!” Comes PT Chiung’s reply.   “How’s it going over there?” Asked Strawbridge, as he headed off.   “Not great! Their all over us. There six of the little buggers and one really big bastard with four arms, it’s like someone took two of the others and squished them together.” PT Chiung’s voice had an edge of strain to it.   “Okay! Keep them busy as long as you can, I’ll get this done as quickly as possible.”    “Copy that!” Came the reply, it was difficult to tell from whom, with all the noise of combat in the background.

SH Strawbridge trotted off down the closest ally heading for the rear service hatches. Circling wide of the sound of the sounds of fighting, he soon found himself standing in front of the service hatch. Opening it, he checked that all was clear before heading inside. He headed for the farthest engine compartment. Entering the service room he climbed the ladder up to J12.   PO O’Leary found himself under attack from all sides, blood was running down his arm and back from several nasty wounds. Farther into the room he could make out PT Chiung firing off round in all directions, but too little.   I can’t take much more of this, I’m losing too much blood! He thought to himself.   Tapping the control stud on the side of his helm he opened a channel to PT Chiung. “How’s things going with you Chiung.”   “I’m taking a beating.” Came the reply.   “I think we need to pull back! I can’t take much more.” There was a moment of silence before PT Chiung replied.    “Okay, maybe the doc can patch us up.” There was another pause. “Who’s going tell Strawbridge?” “I’ll do it!” Firing a burst one handed, with his off hand, PO O’Leary tapped the stud again to change channel. “Strawbridge, you there?”  After a brief pause there was a hiss pop in his ear. “Yes, I’m here.” Came the static charged reply.    “Chiung and I have to pull back! Once we get clear we’ll contact the others and come get you.”  “Okay.” Came the very unsteady reply.   Firing burst after burst with his assault rifle, PO O’Leary started to retreat toward the door. Reaching up to change channel again, he contacted PT Chiung.   “Okay, we’re out of here.” Looking over he can just make out Chiung starting to make a fighting retreat.

“Copy that.” After a short pause “Check your six! You’ve got the big bastard closing in on you!”  Turning around PO O’Leary spotted the creature trying to close in on his blind side. Keeping the big creature in his line of sight as best he could, PO O’Leary darted for the doorway. Just as he ducked through the doors the creature performed an almighty leap, landing amongst the debris of the doors. As it landed it struck out with one of its thick muscular arms, catching O’Leary across the chest, sending him flying across the room. Striking the back wall PO O’Leary slumped to the floor, unconscious. Taking the opportunity PT Chiung darts through the doorway and across the room. Spotting O’Leary’s body he taps the comms stud on his helmet.   SH Strawbridge examined  the damaged pipe linking J12 to the main engines, as the pipe had ruptured the safety valve had done its job and stopped the flow of plasma.   So all I need to do is repair the damage and open the valve!   As he headed back down the ladder to the service room his comms suddenly crackled into life.   “O’Leary’s down! Can’t tell how bad it is. Doc expect some company, I’m coming your way and the things are hot on my tail!”   As the comms want dead SH Strawbridge picks up his pace.    I need to get a move on!

Entering the service room he rushed over to the service locker. Opening it he takes out a length of Duraflex tubing, used as a quick fix for pipes, and some pipe cutters. Hurrying back up the ladder Strawbridge tidies up the broken pipe and attaches the tubing, after checking the connections he reaches over and opens the valve. As the valve opens he can hear the rush of plasma through the piping, looking over he watches as the control board next to the jump pod lights up. A few moments later SH Strawbridge could hear a distinct change in the tone of the engines as the Isler drive started to shutdown, and after a pause he could hear the ships main engines kick in.   “All hands brace for impact, we’re going down!” Came the pilot’s voice over the comms. “I repeat brace for impact!”

As the ship started to vibrate violently SH Strawbridge could feel the heat starting to build in the outer skin of the craft. Just as sweat started to break out on his forehead, Strawbridge noticed that his vision was starting to become unfocused. He was beginning to wander if he should head back into the cargo bay, and take his chances with the creature. When his sight failed, the next second a voice broke through his growing panic.   “This is the end of your Virtual reality training session, please remove your head sets, sensors and exit your VR couches!”

As they assembled in the VR suite aboard the Deep Space Military Transport Dauntilus, they heard the voice on the ships internal comms system.    “Report to your superiors for debriefing!”

And this is where we will leave our future warriors; inbound to the seventh planet of the Wolf 294 star system.

Guest writter jymmijamz.

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