Post by Hyoga on Sept 23, 2020 17:42:20 GMT -6
"This old bucket can’t take much more of this!”
The entire crew lurched in unison as the ship was rocked by another explosion. Sensors showed major damage to their starboard hull and atmosphere venting into space, leaving a trail of crystallizing air in their wake. Warning klaxons blared obnoxiously and red emergency lighting cast the entire flight deck in a hellish glow.
The chase had gone on for over a month now. They'd escaped the initial attack at their base, though most of the crew had been killed or captured in the fighting. The remaining few clinging to their stations in the flight deck weren't exactly Hyoga’s brightest and best. Sytrus was a good pilot, but the rest he barely knew. They were minor thugs and technicians who he'd barely exchanged a word with before their flight. It was far from the team he'd choose for an interstellar getaway. Yet there they were, outgunned and on the run.
Hyoga hunched in his command throne, gritting his teeth as yet another blast glanced off their already damaged flank, tearing away yet more of their meagre armour. The three Galactic Patrol pursuit cruisers tailing them were better-armed than he’d expected, and their weapons were inflicting unsustainable damage to his own ship.
It was an old vessel, barely spaceworthy when he’d ‘acquired’ it from a group of uncooperative Imeckian merchants. The engines were centuries out of date and running on a haphazard set of improvised repairs and ‘custom’ parts. It was a far cry from the ship he’d commanded in the World Trade Fleet, but those days had long since passed. The aging freighter had served them well enough in their remote little backwater of the galaxy until now, but it wasn’t prepared for encounters like this and Hyoga knew it. They had to take action and fast.
“Bring us about, 53 degrees to port!” He bellowed over the klaxons and the groaning protestations of their hull so the helmsman, Sytrus, could hear him. The reptilian crewman looked over his shoulder at Hyoga like he’d gone insane.
“That’ll take us straight into that asteroid field! We’ll be smashed to pieces!” He snarled in protest. Hyoga’s eyes flashed dangerously in response.
“Better than sitting in the open and waiting for them to blow us apart! We can’t outrun them and we can’t outgun them so bring us around!” The ship rocked again as the crew watched the stars sweep across the front viewing port, gradually bringing a vast expanse of asteroids into view. The helmsman worked the controls frantically, trying to get them behind the cover of the floating stellar debris before their ship was finally ripped apart.
“You’re always saying you’re a great pilot, Sytrus,” He called out to his helmsman as the ship rocked from yet another blast. “No time like the present to demonstrate!”
The thrusters kicked into overdrive as he took the ship into a dive, ducking what felt like mere inches beneath a rock the size of a small mountain. Hyoga thought he could hear a little squeak emitting from the crocodilian helmsman’s throat as they narrowly avoided being crushed between two smaller asteroids hiding just behind the first. He jerked the controls wildly, forcing the ship to lurch every which way in rapid succession, deftly evading most of the larger rocks drifting around them. Hyoga’s fingers dug into the arms of his chair, and he could see the rest of the crew similarly tense up. It was almost sickening to look out of the viewport, to see their surroundings wheeling about in ever-changing directions as though they were on some sort of theme park ride. Unlike those experiences, however, the fear and nausea was related to the very real risk of being smashed apart by one of those huge floating rocks.
Hyoga himself might survive a while due to Arcosians’ natural resilience, but with no crew, no loot and most importantly, no ship. It didn’t matter how long he could survive in the vacuum. He’d die of old age before he could ever reach the nearest planet, habitable or otherwise. If this went wrong, he was as doomed as the rest of the crew, though unfortunately he might linger a while longer.
“Scanners!” Hyoga yelled after a minute or so of the space rollercoaster ride. “Any sign of the pursuit cruisers?” He swivelled his chair to face the sensor station. A Kabochan whose name he couldn’t quite recall leaned heavily over the console, sweat beading on his hairless brow as he scrutinised the readouts. The tension in the air was palpable as everyone prayed they'd bought themselves a reprieve.
“Looks like they’ve held back, no sign of them in the field so far…” The whole ship breathed a sigh of relief at that. The desperate gamble had won them a short reprieve at least.
“Thank the gods for that,” Hyoga said, slumping back in his seat. “Shut the damn alarms off and find us somewhere to set down on one of the bigger asteroids.” He reached into the compartment under his seat for a flask of rum. The klaxons finally died off and the lights returned to normal. Hyoga took a swig and savoured the warm feeling of the sweet drink going down. He took a moment to breathe, allowing his crew the same.
“Found a good spot for us on a nearby rock. Nice high-sided crater, plenty of room.” Sytrus croaked, sounding more relaxed now the situation was slightly less dire, though he was still having to guide the ship between the lazily drifting rocks all around them.
“Good. Get it done. We need to cut the engines and make some repairs before they track us down. I’m heading below.” Hyoga said, getting up from his throne and marching off the flight deck.
Making his way to the hold didn’t take long. There wasn’t much on the ship beyond storage space, a few sleeping quarters, the flight deck and of course the engine room. As he made his way down the lengthy corridor to access the starboard cargo hold, he noticed damage. Fires had scorched the walls, lights had been shorted out and left sections of the deck in darkness, and everywhere was the curiously smoky smell left behind by exposure to the vacuum of space. Lights flickered up ahead, and Hyoga drew closer to find a repair droid busy welding patches across the walls. Clearly the atmosphere had been sucked out of this section by a hull breach during the pursuit. The thought of the damage made him grimace, but the loss of oxygen had probably saved them from the fires spreading further through the ship.
He finally drew up alongside the cargo bay doors. He hit the control to open, only for an automated warning to crackle over the announcement system.
“WARNING: MAJOR HULL BREACH DETECTED. CARGO BAY 2 COMPROMISED. DO NOT ENTER.” With a hiss of frustration, Hyoga tapped the panel for a communications line to the flight deck.
“Hyoga here. Do we have internal sensors on cargo bay 2?” He waited for a reply.
“... One feed’s still running up here… Looks like most of the cargo’s been flushed. One or two containers might be salvageable.” The voice sounded just as pained as he felt. Almost the entire stock was gone. Even if they survived, there wouldn’t be much profit left for the crew to divide amongst themselves. He dragged a palm down his face, suppressing the urge to scream in frustration.
“What about the other bay?” He asked with a sigh.
“No hull breach. Looks like a few things got broken but we’re mostly fine. Want me to send somebody down to check through it all?” Came the reply. Hyoga scratched his chin in thought for a moment before hitting the panel and giving his response.
“No, I’ll give it a look myself. Once we’ve set down, get everyone on repair duty and put us in silent running. Hopefully the filth won’t find us too soon.” With that, Hyoga cut the line and marched off to try and salvage what remained of his profits.
Some hours of hard work later, Hyoga stepped back to admire his handiwork. A dozen space pods, stripped down to their shells and loaded up with every bit of valuable loot left aboard. They drifted lazily above the deck, tethered to the cargo bay wall by a net of spare cables. Nobody else was there to help him, or see what he was doing. He’d ‘accidentally’ knocked out the last internal sensor while working on repairs and there still wasn’t any atmosphere in the chamber, so nobody else could enter safely. The great tear in the outer hull had been hastily patched with thick struts and spare sheet metal. It wouldn’t do much as armor and there were still gaps, but it would stop any more cargo drifting out into the void.
While he’d been busy securing their profits, repairs had continued across the rustbucket freighter. The engine had been patched up with everything they could find, including many components from the pods. They didn’t have any fuel, so they were only good for parts and storage. It hadn’t been a difficult sacrifice to make, particularly when the engine repairs gave them a fighting chance at outrunning their pursuers. Scanners were fully operational again, too, so they could keep their eyes fixed on their pursuers. It was time to attempt escape.
Hyoga lifted off from the deck with his toes, gliding up towards the half-patched hull breach. He slipped through a gap he’d left in position, swooping across the hull to a hatch. Banging his fist against the hatch three times, he stole a moment to look out across the surface of their asteroid hiding spot. The sky was littered with other asteroids both large and small, drifting silently through the void around them. The vista ended abruptly along the horizon: the shadowy lip of the vast impact crater in which they’d set down. It was a peaceful sight. One last moment of calm before the action resumed. With that thought, he felt the hatch lift upwards, admitting him to the airlock.
Making his way back to the flight deck, he dumped himself back in the command throne and downed half the remaining rum in his flask. Smacking his lips as he felt the rush of heat flow through him, he settled back into command mode.
“Any sign of our friends?” He said, swivelling nonchalantly towards the sensor station. The Kabochan crewman, looking somewhat more relaxed than when Hyoga had last spoken to him, gave a cool reply.
“They’re drifting just outside the field, waiting for us to make a move.” He looked searchingly at Hyoga, no doubt wondering how he intended to get them out of this.
“Well let’s give them what they’ve been waiting for!” Hyoga announced sharply, swivelling to face the viewport and resting his feet on a convenient handrail. “Sytrus, I want you to lift off and get us above the asteroids, right in their line of sight. Pull us away from them as fast as possible and don’t stop til I say so!” The helmsman nodded, kicking the engines online and making preparations to lift off from their hiding spot. Hyoga sighed and took another swig of rum. “Let’s give these losers a chase they’ll never forget.”
The engines hummed, spinning up and steadily lifting the rickety freighter from the crater that had sheltered it. There was a palpable feeling of vulnerability as space once again dominated the viewport and they began to pick up speed, swerving huge chunks of ice and rock as they went.
“Exiting the field now. Hold onto your butts.” Said the Kabochan sensor operator. Hyoga sat up, planting his feet squarely on the deck-plating and leaning forward with a vice-like grip on the arms of his seat. In spite of his trepidation, he felt a grin spreading across his face. There was an undeniable thrill in such audacious plans as the one he was about to execute.
Through the viewport, he saw the last few rocks streak past their hulls, catching a brief glimpse of the pursuit cruisers before Sytrus jerked them onto an escape trajectory. The engines whined as he pushed them to their limits. Asteroids blurred beneath them as they hurtled away from the interplanetary law enforcers and the whole ship shook with the stress of their flight.
“They’re firing again!” The Kabochan called out. Scarcely a moment later, the ship lurched, confirming his words. Two blasts missed them, mercifully, as Sytrus took the ship into a roll. “Minimal damage, but we can’t keep this up for long!”
“We won’t have to,” Hyoga said with a smirk and a perhaps unearned sense of confidence. “Get ready to open the loading bay doors on my command. Sytrus: As soon as you hear the order, take us into a dive and level us out in the upper layer of the asteroid field!” With that, Hyoga stood up, watching the asteroids sweeping beneath them as they were rocked again by weapon blasts from the Patrol ships. Spotting a sufficiently large gap in the asteroids ahead, he slammed a fist against the handrail and barked his order:
One other piece of work had been done at Hyoga’s command: Every piece of junk, debris and damaged cargo they could spare had been heaped onto the aft loading bay. If anyone came into close pursuit, the junk could be dumped straight into space, flying in the face of the enemy, and maybe even damaging their ships.
And when one of the crewmen slammed the controls for the aft loading bay doors, exactly that happened. Sytrus slammed the ship into a sharp dive, and the opened doors spewed a cloud of debris directly in the path of their pursuers. The ship rocked and lurched as the helmsman twisted their course between asteroids and buried them beneath a layer of the drifting rocks.
“Slow us down, give yourself a chance to maneuver.” He ordered Sytrus, before turning to the sensor station again. “What happened to the cruisers?”
“Looks like one of them took a hit from something and lost power. They’ve fallen behind…” He spent a moment more analysing the readouts. “There’s another heading right for us at 2-10… It’s going to hit us!” The Kabochan gave a panicked cry as he saw the damaged Galactic Patrol vessel careening towards them on the viewport. Its cockpit was smashed and it had bounced off an asteroid, sending shards of rock and ice flying in all directions as it hurtled towards the rickety old freighter.
“Sytrus, get us clear!” Hyoga yelled, grabbing the handrail as the whole ship swung about.
The helmsman tried his best to evade the collision, but with a tremendous crash and the screech of tearing metal, it was immediately clear the attempt had failed. Everyone on the flight deck was sent sprawling across workstations or the deck plating as the entire ship quaked around them. When finally it stopped, Hyoga hauled himself upright and barked orders once again.
“Damage report!” He watched for a moment as the rest of the crew scrambled back to their stations. Sytrus was the first to respond, hissing a curse in his native language.
“Stabilisers are busted, we couldn’t fly straight if we were being towed. We can use the engines... But I’m not going to be able to do much in the way of steering.” He clutched a wound on the side of his snout as he turned to look at Hyoga.
“What about the last cruiser? Anything on scans?”
“It’s heading this way, we only slowed it down… They’ll spot us in a couple of minutes at most. If we don’t hit one of those big rocks and get ourselves crushed first.” Said the Kabochan with a grim look on his face.
Hyoga slumped into his chair, looking out the viewport at the stars and asteroids that appeared to be spinning outside. It had been an ambitious plan. He knew the chances of it working perfectly were slim. Still, it was disappointing. He took one final glug of rum before tossing the flask to Sytrus.
“Last of the rum’s yours. You did a good job, but we never really had much of a chance.” With that, he heaved a dramatic sigh and pulled himself to his feet. “Before we die or get hauled off to spend the rest of our lives trapped in orbit of a black hole, I’m gonna take a walk. Feel free to… listen to some music… or something...” He trailed off, leaving the despairing crew behind as he stepped off the flight deck with a sullen, plodding gait.
As soon as the doors closed behind him, however, he took off into a sprint, tearing down the corridors towards cargo bay 2. Without sparing a moment for the controls, he simply slammed a fist through the bay doors and tore them open wide enough for him to slip through. Atmosphere whooshed past him as he stepped into the bay, oblivious to its force. He looked up at the patched hull breach. It had mostly held up, though a few sections had been torn away or bent out of alignment. It wasn’t much of a concern at that point, however. With a gesture, he summoned a glittering orb of energy in the palm of his hand, lighting up the shadowy bay with amber light. With a nonchalant flick, he tossed it into those metal ribs he’d hastily welded in place, blasting them off to join the debris surrounding the ship.
He turned back to the pods, still clustered securely behind the web of cables he’d used to lash them together. The foremost pod was unlike the rest, for it still contained its seating, engines, controls and so on. It had not, in fact, been converted into an armored cargo container. He’d knocked out the internal sensors in the bay so nobody else would know about what he’d done. Touching a release mechanism, he opened the pod and planted a foot inside, before pointing a finger at the knot that held the bundle of pods secure. A stream of ki lanced out and silently severed the cord. Hyoga hastily swung himself into his pod as it began to drift in the vacuum.
The hatch sealed, the cockpit re-pressurised. Controls and interfaces came to life as the engines began to warm up. Suddenly, the comms system crackled to life.
“This is Sytrus. Is that you, Hyoga? Sensors show an energy source down in cargo bay 2. What’s going on? The Patrol cruiser is moving in to take the ship. We need you on the flight deck.” His voice had an air of panic creeping into it again. Hyoga activated his own comms to respond.
“Nothing to worry about, just warming up the pod’s engines,” he said, turning his attention to the controls as he began slowly guiding the pod out through the hole in the side of the ship.
“What pod? You said they were out of fuel, we converted them into storage!” Sytrus replied, his voice beginning to sound hurt. The other shoe was about to drop.
“Not enough fuel for all of them,” Hyoga said, checking the pod’s sensors for the exact position of the Patrol vessel. He had to time his exit just right. “Besides, what would we have stored the loot in if we’d kept them all?”
“You backstabbing, Changeli-” Hyoga cut the feed before he had to hear any more of Sytrus’ final words. Part of him did feel a little bad about the situation, but really they’d all have died long ago without his leadership and protection. In a way, they were all repaying those debts now. Sensors showed the cruiser extending docking clamps. That was the cue to leave.
Guiding out his pod, the rest followed, tethered to his operational one. Once outside, Hyoga opened his pod and looked out at the ship through the open vacuum of space. No doubt within, the surviving crew were now facing down a boarding party of Patrolmen. But all he saw on the outside was a sad old rustbucket, long since due for the scrapheap, and the Galactic Patrol ship that now had it in its clutches.
Summoning up another sphere of light in his palm, Hyoga took aim, digging fingers into the volatile orb of ki. With a flash, his fingers opened and the orb exploded into a shower of blasts. The two ships were peppered with destructive force, hundreds of tiny explosions shredding their hulls and knocking them away, into the depths of the asteroid field. In the silence of the void he couldn’t hear any screams, but he definitely imagined them for a moment as he watched their blazing wreckage pulverized in the debris field below.
After he was satisfied that both ships were thoroughly destroyed, Hyoga re-sealed his pod and started up the engines. He had to find somewhere to stash all the loot, at least til he got a new ship to haul it with. And then there was the matter of finding a civilized planet somewhere nearby with no navigation charts. It would be a long trip.
As he began scouting for a good place to bury his treasure, his eyes turned towards the dense starfield ahead: The galactic core. His former home. He couldn't help but wonder what awaited him on his return...