Friday, October 18, 2013

The Reversal - Part 2

I'm on holiday so this is automatically posting whilst I am away.

The Reversal - Part 2

The group of a dozen survivors of the crash slowly trudged across the barren landscape. They wore fire-fighting rebeathers that allowed them to breath in the nitrogen rich atmosphere. It had only been a two kilometre walk but the higher atmospheric pressure was taking its toll. They were all suffering from mild nitrogen narcosis due to the dense atmosphere. Whilst they symptoms were similar to being mildly drunk, the Captain knew they had bigger problems. The air they were breathing from the rebeathers obviously contain oxygen, but under the right circumstances oxygen was poisonous to the human body. He rechecked the screen attached to his sleave. The atmospheric pressure was 4 times that of a normal temperate planet. Pressure of 4 bar on 21% oxygen gave a partial pressure of 1.04. Well below the 1.8 recommended maximum. Central Nervous System Toxicity would not be a problem. However there was the second type, whole body oxygen poisoning. The longer they stayed outside the more danger they were in.

There was a lot of dust blowing in the wind and visibility was low. Slowly a vast shadow started to appear in the gloom. As they approached, it took shape.

"That cannot be...." the XO spoke in amazement over the comm link.

"It is." the captain cut in. "It is the The Shimu Sota".

The group stopped and looked at the lost terraforming ship. It had crashed into the same area as they had and had slid into the side of a mountain. It had been there for nearly 100 years.

"OK people, it is an old ship, but its still a ship. Find your respective areas and see what we have."

The group broke up into small teams each heading to the area of the ship they knew best. The engineers grouped together and headed towards the aft of the ship and the engineering bay, the command crew started towards the front of the ship and the bridge. The crash had left many holes and tears in the Shimu Sota's hull so access was not difficult. It was also much more intact than their own ship that had broken up on crashing. The captain and the XO slipped in through a tear in the hull and into a dark corridor, they turned on the lights attached to their headgear. The ship was dead, the atmosphere was nearly pure nitrogen and there was no sign of power. Dust covered the floor and the surfaces, leaving footprints behind the two as they walked towards to front of the ship. Nobody had walked these corridors in generations.

They reached the bridge and it was the same. Dead. The Captain tried to access the captains console but there was no power.

"XO. See if there is any juice left in the backup batteries. They should be located behind that access panel."

The XO moved to the panel next to her and opened it.

"That's strange sir. Nothing here, and when I say nothing here I mean nothing!"

The Captain walked over and looked inside. She was right. Not only were the batteries missing but large sections of electronics had been removed. He plug in a small emergency power cell he had brought. The console came to life for a few seconds, and then died.

They continued their search and found a number of the crew. The dry, oxygen-free atmosphere had preserved the bodies. Their uniforms, although dusty, were still bright around the mummified corpses. The ones around the forward decks were obviously killed in the crash. However, as they worked back they found crew that appear to have been murdered.

"What in Divinities Edge happened here?" the XO muttered crouching down over a corpse that appeared to have been stabbed in the chest.

"Could have been mass panic. May be survivors fighting over food and resources. I wouldn't think it would take long for discipline to break down and people to do what they thought they had to do to survive." replied the Captain.

He moved further down the corridor and his boot kicked something under a layer of dust. He bent down and picked the object up, shaking the dust from it. It was a slave collar used to control Matari slaves. The Captain then realised they had seen no Matari corpses, and a ship of this era would have had a large slave compliment working on it.

After an hour of exploring the teams met up together.

"How is the reactor?" the captain asked.

"Its gone sir!" the chief engineer replied.


"No sir, its been taken. Seriously, the hull plates have been removed and the reactor taken, somewhere. There are even gouges in the rock surface showing where it went!"


The 12 crew trudged on, desperately aware that time was not on their side.

The deep gouges in the surface led the survivors into a valley between the barren, rocky mountains. The trail had begun immediately where the side of the Shimu Sota had been hacked open and they had been following it for an hour. The mountains now towered either side of them as they progressed down the valley. The captain glanced at the panel attached to his sleeve. 25 minutes of air remaining in his breather. As he walked he wondered if he had done the right thing. There was no way they would have survived much longer on their ship and even less on the wreck of the Shimu Sota, but they would have had a few extra hours. The gouge marks led into a huge cave, there obviously had been water on this planet in the distant past. It had carved a massive cave and probably had formed the valley they had walked through to get there. The gouge marks continued into the black. For some reason someone, or something had dragged the reactor in here.

One by one the crew switched on the lamps attached to their masks. The cave lit up as they looked around and headed deeper inside the mountain.

A beep from each rebeather sounded over the next five minutes, warning the users that they had less than 15 minutes of air left and should get safe. Worried glances were exchanged. Soon they were down to five minutes of air and the captain believed all was lost. He slowly raised his arm as he heard a double bleep from his console. Glancing down he expected to see a countdown to his death. Instead, the counter was going up. He shook his head assuming the atmospheric pressure and diminishing oxygen was playing tricks with his mind. He saw other crew member looking confused. Then he looked at the atmospheric readout. 81% N2 - 19% O2. Hardly a great atmosphere, but it was breathable. How? They were on a lifeless planet, how did this cave have a breathable atmosphere when the outside was pure nitrogen? The captain removed his mask and took a tentative breath. Clean, fresh air. Others followed after seeing their captain do it.

Slowly they made their way deeper, as they progressed the O2 levels slowly rose. As it neared 21% they saw some form of light source ahead. The group picked up their pace. A minute later they strolled into an immense underground cavern teaming with life. Fields stretch out in front of them and a small village could be seen in the distance. Artificial lights suspended from the cavern roof lit the area. The captain could just make out the fussion reactor near the village. They had stripped the terraforming equipment from the ship and had managed to get this cavern to sustain life.

The group walked into the fields and saw figures tending the crops. They stood and looked at the strangers nervously. They too were Amarrian but wore rags and were stick thin. Some ran off when they saw the new comers.

The captain approached one that had stood his ground.

"I am Captain Erza of the Imperial Navy Scientific Vessel The Righteous. It is amazing you have survived! The Empress and God be praised!"

The man did not reply, he looked terrified. The captain was about to ask what was wrong when he heard shouting. A group of men with crude weapons was running towards them. They were not just men, they were Matari. It took the captain a few seconds to realise what was happening. His fellow Amarrians, stick thin and dressed in rags were working the fields. These Matari looked well fed and better clothed. They must have been the slaves on the Shimu Sota, but now they were in control. They surrounded the captain and his crew as one of the larger men stepped forward.

"I am Beltard of Brutor. Welcome slaves, it is good that you are here." the large Matari leader announced.

"I am Captain Erza of The Righteous. A vessel of the glorious Amarr Imperial Fleet and we are no slaves, Matari!" he did his best to sound confident. He knew the situation was useless. They had not brought any weapons. Why should they on a dead planet? If he could bluff his way through then they might be able to gain control of these ex-slaves.

The Matari laughed heartily and casually swung his crude axe around lazily.

"Take their equipment and clothes. Give them something to wear more fitting for slaves. Men to the fields, women to the cells. Tonight we feast!" he announced to his men to a great cheer.

The captain stepped forward in anger. The last thing he saw was a huge fist launched at his face.


For the second time that day the captain came around in pain. He opened his eyes to find an old Amarrian tending his wounds.

"Who are you?" groaned the captain.

"I am Chel." the old man smiled. "My parents were crew on the Shimu Sota."

"What happened?"

The old man continued dressing the cut on the captains head as he recounted the tail. They were surveying the planet when there was a computer malfunction, the slave's collars all popped opened at the same time. Within minutes they had a full blown mutiny on their hands. An attempt to take over the helm controls from engineering had fired the engines and taken the ship into the atmosphere where it had suffered the same fate as The Righteous. The ship had survived the crash much better than The Righteous. The worst affected part of the ship was the fore. Most of the crew in the forward sections of the ship died on impact, unfortunately that included most of the officers and senior staff. In the confusion of the aftermath of the crash the Matari had taken control. With no command and being suddenly outnumbered the Amarrians hadn't stood a chance. The entire crew, now with the Matari in charge had looked for options. The ships scanners had detected the cave system and it appeared to be the only way to survive. They had stripped the terraforming gear and all useful equipment from the Shimu Sota and resettled there. Only this time it was the Minmatar who were in control. The ship had more than enough goods to make a good start, especially for the much smaller crew. From nutrient rich soils to cattle embryo's that could be grown in weeks in the clone vats they had enough gear to start a small eco-system. There was more than enough food to go around, but the Matari ruled with an iron fist. The Captain continued to ask questions and the old man replied as best he could.

A short while later the captain was collected.

The great hall was just how he'd imagined. A blend of scavenged resources and those they had grown naturally creating a homage to traditional Matari tribal architecture. As he was roughly pushed into the hall a roar went up. The tables were filled with food and foaming beer. The delicious aromas made his empty stomach grumble. However, there were no Amarrians seated, only Matari. The Amarrians present were walking between tables serving, including several of his crew. Rage boiled up inside of the captain. He was shoved forward again towards the top table that was on a raised stage and looked down on the other long tables lined with benches. Some were signing a song in the Matari dialect.

"Ah! Their leader is awake!" shouted the Matari man who had punched the captain. A roar sounded around the hall.

"Come! Come captain, please sit here."

The captain was pushed next to the leader and shoved into a chair. The Matari went back to their feast.

"As you can see Captain, we have prepared a feast in your honour. We were having some issues with our slaves, you Amarrians work slow and breed slow, and are awfully fragile. But now you have come to bring fresh blood, all is well!"

A plate was slammed down in front of the captain. It contained bones with a few shreds of meat attached. The captain wouldn't have given that to his hounds, there wasn't enough meat on them.

"Let the auction commence!" the leader shouted which was followed by a huge cheer. The captain had a sense of foreboding about this auction.

A minute later his fears were confirmed. The female members of the crew were led into the hall. They had been stripped to their underwear and were hoisted onto one of the tables. Each one looked terrified and most were sobbing. One by one the men in the hall called out their bids. Some of the Matari women sat with those men slapped them occasionally, the Captain assumed they were partners or husbands, when they offered a bid on the more attractive Amarrian crew members. Soon even some fights were breaking out between rival bidders. Although it appeared to be normal with the surrounding Matari whooping, cheering and egging them on. One-by-one each of the captains female crew where auctioned and collected by the winning bidders.

"You are animals." the Captain growled.

The leader turned to him and grinned.

"Now tell me captain. Obviously I have only heard tales from my parents, but how are my kind treated on your worlds? Have you not seen this all before?"

The Captain opened his mouth but stopped. He knew there was no way he could respond to that. This place was a frightening mirror of the Imperial Empire. The only difference was the roles were reversed. His father had took him to his first slave auction when he was 12. He can still remember the look on those Minmatar's faces as they were led up to the podium and the gathered Amarrians shouted out their bids. They were fearful, sad, broken.

As he considered that, he knew all was lost, there was no way out. He grabbed a knife from the table and lunged at the leader. A deafening roar of approval went up as the two men tussled. Even some of the men who were heading out of the hall with the captains female officers slung over their shoulders stopped to watch and cheer. The Matari seated adjacent to the Captain and their leader sprang to their feet but they didn't interfere. They cheered and encouraged the leader as the two men rolled on the floor. The fight was short.

The captain lay on his back motionless, the wooden knife handle protruding from his chest. Each laboured breath he took brought foaming blood to his lips. The Matari leader stood over him and smiled.

"Ha! Good fight captain and congratulations. You just made the slaves very happy! Take him to the slaves kitchen, let them know they have proper meat on the menu this week. Hell he might even last them until next week!"

As the captain was dragged by the wrists he caught the eye of some of his crew who were serving the Minmatar. In his fading vision he could see they were broken, he'd seen the look before. The same look he'd seen on his own the slaves back in the empire.

The End

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