Friday, September 19, 2014

Alien - Part 2

Fiction Friday. Escape pod here! Basically this is what Monday's post would have read like if I was a professional journalist and 86% less of a bitter-vet!

Alien - Part 2

Esme started to come around, his head throbed. He felt like he was no longer on the ship. He could hear birdsong. The air was humid and smelt of a damp forest, certainly not the recycled air of a starship. Was he dead? Was this paradise he was waking up in? He flexed his fingers expecting to feel grass and soil, but they scraped the harsh cold metal of a ship's deck plate. He opened his eyes briefly. A bright sun was shining in his face and stung his eyes so he closed them again and let out a groan. A wet cloth touched his forehead.

"Sir? Sir? Are you OK?" came a female voice.

He knew it was one the bridge crew. He forced his eyes open again. He was looking up at a deep blue sky again. He tilted his head and realised he was still on the bridge, or what was left of it. The decks above had been torn away completely as had most of the starboard side. Ensign Khana, one of the navigation officers, was kneeling by his side.

"How long have I been out?" he groaned.

"About 12 hours sir." she replied.

"Where is the Captain?"

She didn't reply. She simply shook her head slowly, a tear forming at the corner of her eye.

Esme struggled to his feet with the help of the Ensign. He was amazed anyone could have survived. The devastation was all around. He saw a few more crew moving below on the edge of the crash site. What he assumed were eight crude graves were mounded near the edge of the forest. Looking behind him he saw the trail of destruction the ship had created on landing, if you could really call it a landing. A brown scar ran thought the forest, fires still burning in parts. It must have been a good three kilometres of forest that they had sliced through.

He headed down the makeshift ramp of twisted deck plates and hull sections to the grassy floor of the forest. Several crew stopped what they were doing and approached him looking expectantly.

"Sir, good to see you are OK." Navnok the Security Chief said as he neared.

"I will be when this head clears. What's our status Chief?"

"Not good I'm afraid sir. Looks like the ship split in two on decent. There were nine survivors of the initial impact but we lost two in the hours following including the Captain. The basic medi-kits just weren't up to the task and the med-bay is on the other section of ship. I guess thats the other half over there." the Chief pointed into the distance. Esme shielded his eyes from the sun and looked in the direction the Chief was indicating. Some 30km or so away there appeared to be a line of mountains, smoke could be seen billowing up from behind one of the peaks.

"We've tried communicating to any possible survivors over there, but there is something in the atmosphere that blocks our transmissions. We cannot get a signal to them, which also means..." his voice trailed off.

"The distress beacon on the ship is probably not getting through either." the XO finished for him. "How are we for supplies?"

"Not great sir. The Sun of Amarr was never intended to end up on a planet. We aren't prepared for this. We have a few ration packs and the side-arms from one security locker. Without ships power, most of the rooms are sealed to us. Plus all the tools we could use to open the doors, well they are in engineering in the other half of the ship. Its not looking good sir."

Esme knew that he needed to lift the crews spirits. Giving up and dying would soon become far too great an appealing option in such a desperate situation.

"How about the local environment?"

"Some good news there sir." the Chief perked up. "Gravity and O2 are close enough to Amarr norms to sustain us. There is a water source 50m to the east which SO Shabra says is good drinking water. We've also found some fruit which again she says is safe to eat. I've seen evidence of animal tracks but no signs, I guess a few thousand tons of spaceship crashing down on top of them scared them off. Will try hunting later and get us some meat later when they return."

"Where is the SO?" Esme enquired.

"Down by the water sir. I'll take you."

Navnok led the XO into the forest. Esme glanced at the various trees and plants which looked like nothing he had seen before. The colours, shapes and smells were all alien to him. 

After a couple of minutes they reached a clearing with a pond. A small waterfall fed the body of water at one end and he could see his Science Officer sat on a rock scribbling in a notepad. He noted a few other crew members sat by the pond.

"As well as me, you and SO Shabra, Ensign Girned made it along with Lieutenant Hazara, Ensign Khana and Lieutenant Commander Zarisri. No-one who wasn't on the bridge made it. We think there are 28 bodies locked in the ship plus may be upto 70 to 80 slaves. With the power down to the doors and life support gone the knocking stopped after a few hours. We tried to open the doors but we had no chance. The breach protocols had kicked in and everything was sealed tight."

Esme nodded and approached the Science Officer.

"Commander Sir!" Shabra said jumping to her feet.

"At ease. I think we need to loosen on the formalities Shabra. We've on an alien planet in unknown space and the ship is scrap metal." he smiled.

"Yes Sir. Sorry."

"Navnok's assessment is pretty grim especially about the signal interference. I don't suppose you have a plan." he asked almost resigned that they may end up becoming the furthest Amarr colony from the Throne Worlds.

"Actually I do. Here." and Shabra passed him her notebook. Small diagrams and formula were scribbled haphazardly over the two open pages. He closed the book straight away after only a cursory glance.

"I've got a bit of a headache and one of the good things about command is you can forget most of the astrophysics lessons from the academy as you have others to do it. Why don't you give me the TLDR?"

Shabra smiled and nodded.

"Well sir. The interference is due to certain isotopes in the lower atmosphere. We noticed these early on from the orbital scan. They interrupt ground-based communications and will stop anything getting through into space. So we need to get a transmitter higher than these isotopes. This is a problem as the ship is totalled and the shuttles got roasted by that alien object that hit us and then burnt off. The only thing we have are the survey probes. However they only have warp engines."

Esme nodded. "And warp engines cannot work in an atmosphere."

"Exactly sir. Warp drives work by creating a depleted vacuum in space allowing anything in the warp bubble to travel FTL. In space the warp drive has to deplete the contents of the bubble from 99.99% vacuum to 100% vacuum and that is hard enough. In the atmosphere it has no chance with 0% vacuum. So what we need to do is get a probe 90km up where the atmosphere is so light the warp drive can create the depleted vacuum bubble and activate. Then it can warp to the wormhole and re-enter known space and transmit our distress call." Shabra smiled.

"Excellent. Shabra, just one issue." Esme said.

"How do we get a survey probe 90km in the air with only the front-half of a wrecked starship, seven crew and a primitive rain-forest at our disposal?" she asked.

"Exactly. I mean I'm as handy with an axe as the next man but I'm not sure the wood from these tree's is strong enough to support a 90km high tower!" he smiled.

Shabra skipped a few pages in her journal and showed him a diagram.

"Seriously?" he asked in amazement.

"I think so. I think I can fit one of the maneuvering thruster rocket assemblies from the ship and make it a single stage launch vehicle. With a few modifications I think I can get it to 90km, then with an explosive decoupler it'll be enough. The issue is although we have probes here at this crash site, the thruster assemblies are on the aft of the ship which is...."

A harsh buzzing sound stopped Shabra and all the crew spun around to see where the noise was coming from. A huge insect was slowly hovering above the water. To Esme is looked like some kind of cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly. It was vividly coloured in bright blues and greens. Approximately half a metre across it slowly hovered over the water, translucent wings beating so fast they were a blur. The crew watched the beautiful creature as it slowly moved to shore and its path took it towards Ensign Girned. She smiled at it as it gently floated past. It slowly swung around her and hovered apparently looking at her, inspecting even. With lightening speed a hidden tail uncurled from under its body and it struck her on the neck before it flew away at speed into the forests undergrowth and vanished. She looked across the pond at Esme in shock before collapsing to her knees. Esme and Shabra sprinted around the pond just behind Navnok. When they reached Girned she was holding her palm to her neck and wincing.

"Well that wasn't very friendly!" she grumbled as Shabra dropped to her knees and inspected her neck.

"We need to be careful. We have no idea about the wildlife on this planet." Esme said looking to see if had had gone.

Esme glanced back and was met with Shabra's  face looking up at him. She looked worried. Esme looked at Girned's neck and saw it, a dark red puncture wound. The flesh around it was white and lumpy and black veins could be seen snaking out from the sting.

"I don't feel too good" Girned muttered as she collapsed.


It was early morning and the surviving crew were trudging through the forest pulling a sledge. Shabra had shot some sort of six-legged mammal last night whilst hunting. It had provided a good meal. After a nights sleep there task was to get to the other section of the ship whilst dragging a scanner probe recovered from the wreckage.

Nobody had said much that morning. It had not been a good night even with their first proper meal in nearly a day. Girned had deteriorated through the night. The sting had been worse than any of them could have imagined. Her neck had swelled up and she had screamed for hours in pain as the poison assaulted her system. None of the medical supplies they had worked. Even the drugs designed to knock patients out had little effect. She'd gone under for a matter of minutes before waking again screaming. Within a couple of hours her arms and legs had turned black. Just before midnight her face had swelled and turned purple. Sometime in the early hours she had died. All the crew now walked in pairs with a laser pistol between them. If one of those creatures was seen again the order was to shoot it on sight. Esme had thought hard about it. If he was stung he'd take his own life. No way he wanted to go through what Girned suffered.

The jungle was thick, luckily Navnok had a lasade, a type of knife where the blade was an adjustable laser, and was easily cutting a path. The weapons locker that had survived the crash had four pistols, the laser blade and a couple of low-powered concussion grenades. The armoury on the ship was well stocked in case of the ship being boarded. However that was located in the aft section. The bridges weapon locker was simply to arm the crew to slow attackers down until security turned up.

Four of them dragged the scanner probe on the make-shift sledge they had built. That left Navnok to take point and one to follow behind with a gun ready. They were rotating the tasks given that pulling the sledge was such hard work.

"Wait" Navnok hissed and everyone stopped. His tone made those carrying the guns draw them. The ones without guns quickly grabbed sharpened stakes that were stacked on the side of the sledge. Esme looked at his small band, it would be comical if it wasn't so tragic. His crew was armed with the latest Amarrian laser blades, laser pistols, but also and sharpened sticks. 10,000 years of weaponry represented in a single group.

"I saw something, it was small but it looked humanoid." Navnok whispered to Esme.

"Impossible!" Esme whispered back "All these planets have been scanned before, especially by the eggers. Any human civilisation would have been picked up!"

"Did I say human? I said humanoid. It was 30cm tall, max! Also it wasn't wearing any clothes."

"What?" Zarisri said at normal volume. "You got us all worked up for a 30cm pigmy?

Everyone looked at the Lieutenant Commander.

Esme worried what would happen next. Zarisri was in charge of the survey aspects of the ship. He was a hot-head who had an inflated ego and was particularly bitter he had not made Commander yet. He failed to understand that before he would be given a Command role he needed to garner respect from his peers. Something his attitude wouldn't get.

"Look I'll blast its head off and we can get moving OK?" he moaned and stomped forward to where Navnok had stopped cutting.

"Zarisri get back here, thats an order." Esme hissed quietly. Zarisri either didn't hear or chose to ignore him as he pushed through the vines and ferns and vanished into the dense undergrowth.

"Navnok with me. Everyone else take up a defensive position here, we have no idea whats out there!" Esme ordered as he raised his pistol in both hands and started after Zarisri.

The jungle was thick, they could see where Zarisri had pushed through and soon caught up with him in a small clearing. He was down on one knee with a hand extended to a small humanoid creature. Navnok had been right. It was around 30cm tall with light-blue, hairless skin. Its ears were too big for its head and its head was too big for its body. It looked a bit like a chubby baby.

"Lieutenant, slowly move away from it." Esme said in a low tone.

"Nahhh don't worry sir, look its like a small lost kid. Come on little man. I won't hurt you." he said extending his hand. The creature took a couple of small steps towards him looking very unsure of itself.

"Zarisri!" Esme hissed annoyed now.

Suddenly the humanoid creature darted forward at a speed nobody could believe. It crashed into Zarisri who shrieked in pain. The creature was moving so fast it was almost a blur. A red mist exploded around Zarisri's left leg.

"GET IT OFF ME!" he cried as Navnok and Esme ran to help. As they reached him they couldn't tell where his leg was and where the creature was. Blood and gore was everywhere.

"SHOOT IT!" he screamed.

Esme fired at the blur hoping not to hit Zarisri. The shot missed but the creature stopped for a second to see what the noise was. Navnok's follow up shot hit it square in the chest and blew it three metres across the clearing. Navnok ran to make sure it was incapacitated as Esme helped Zarisri. Navnok reached the body and looked down on the creature. It was still alive, barely. It looked nothing like the small cute, chubby baby-like creature they had first encountered. Its hands and feet sported razor sharp claws that were drenched in red blood. Its mouth was open showing several rows of serrated needle like teeth. Blue blood leaked from the bullet wound in its chest. Its eyes locked on Navnok's own. It looked at him hungrily.

"Good night!" he muttered as he raised the pistol and shot it in the head. The tiny head exploded, showering bright green brain matter over the grass. He quickly jogged back to Esme and Zarisri. As the ships Security Chief Navnok had seen some sights, but this one nearly made him throw up. Esme was busy using his belt as a tourniquet on Zarisri's  thigh. The leg below the knee had been stripped of flesh. Red-stained bone extended down from the knee to the top of his boot. The thing had stripped the flesh from his leg in seconds.

"What in the name of the Empress....." he muttered. Esme looked up.

"We need to get him back to the others. Shabra might be able to help him. Everything on this stinking rock is hazardous and we......"

The sound of a laser pistol discharging stopped him dead. Suddenly dozen more discharges could be heard, back towards where they had left the group. There was a fire-fight erupting in the middle of the primitive jungle. The two men quickly grabbed Zarisri and supported him between their shoulders and started to head as fast as they could to the other. The sound of the fire-fight growing with every step.

....... to be continued.........

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