Friday, May 30, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 4 (4)

Hans started up at the screen and watched a fuzzy picture come up on the screen. He had a hard time seeing anything through the static.

“This Tango Foxtrot Zulu Alpha Two Niner Two known as the Albatross. We are having severe engine troubles and electronic failures. Assistance is needed. We are unable to continue on our course. Auto-pilot is down, manual pilot is not responding to any commands. Assistance needed.”
Hans checked their readings to see if they could locate the ship. “I’ve got it on our system and I’m sending in the course change now.”

“Announce it to the passengers? I’ve already sent a message to Five-C-Four to know that we’re going to be delayed from our expected arrival time.” Duke checked a few other readings as the mayday continued to play in the background.
“Yeah, this might be quite the delay.” Hans started resetting their course to intercept with the Albatross and started composing a response message.

Duke turned on the intercom. “Attention passengers. This is your co-captain Duke Willis speaking. We are currently re-routing our course to go to the assistance of a stranded ship in this area. By law we are required to investigate all maydays that are received. Your destination has been informed of the potential delay and we will be back on our way as quickly as we can.”
Duke shut off the intercom and looked back at Hans and gave him the nod to go forward with the response. Hans opened up a general communications broadcast on all emergency channels. “Albatross, this is the Phoenix. We have received your mayday and are heading on an intercept course to give assistance. ETA is five minutes. Please respond.”

They waited for response, but none came.
“Repeat the call? Maybe on all channels this time?” Duke asked.

“Sounds good.” Hans repeated the call. “Albatross, this is the Phoenix. We are responding to your mayday. ETA is about four minutes. Please respond.”
Still there was no response. Duke and Hans exchanged a glance. Normally, communications was the last system to go down. It was very rare for a ship to not be able to respond.

“Maybe the electrical issue extended to the communications system…” Duke tried to sound hopeful.
“Including the backups?” Hans shook his head. “That’s extremely unlikely. Think it could be a trap? Pirates aren’t unheard of in these parts.”

“I haven’t heard about any activity in these parts, but that doesn’t mean much. Did you check the records for that ship? Is it supposed to be in this area?” Duke replayed the mayday to get the call number of the ship again and watched as Hans plugged it into the system.
“Here it is. It’s registered to be in this system, but something doesn’t look right about this entry. I think it might be doctored.” Hans did a deeper search into the information, trying to see if there was anything definitive that he could find.

“Well?” Duke was impatient. They could now see the Albatross through the screen without any magnification. They were close enough to give help or get attacked and the longer they waited, the more dangerous it could be.
“I’m looking, but it’s good. I’m sure this is a doctored entry, but there are no obvious tells. We’re going to have to give assistance. We have no choice in this matter. If someone finds out that we ignored a mayday, even if we believed it to be false, we could be in a world of trouble.” Hans frowned and looked at the Albatross on the screen. “There is physical damage. Small meteors, it could be legit and their screens may have been down which caused the damage.”

“I think you’re reaching for straws right now, but you are right. We really do not have a choice in the matter. Let’s suit up.” Duke got to the locker first and grabbed an atmospheric suit and started to dress. Hans was right behind him, but stopped to unlock a nearby cabinet.
“We should go in armed. You know how to use one of these?” Hans tossed a gun towards Duke who caught it awkwardly.

“Point and squeeze, right?” Duke held the gun like it was a live grenade.
“Never used one before have you?” Hans bit his lip as he thought about what to do. “Yeah, point and squeeze generally covers it. It’s already on its lowest setting. Unless someone has a heart condition it should just knock them out. There is a safety button on the side. Press that with your thumb before squeezing the trigger or it won’t do you any good.”

Hans finished suiting up and attached the gun to the holster on the outside of the suit. “Ready?”
Duke nodded and Hans opened the door into a smaller room. They waited for the atmosphere to be vented before cycling open the outside door. It was a quick walk over to the Albatross and it took very little time before they were waiting inside another small room, this time for the atmosphere to be cycled in so that they could open the door to the inside.

“Ready? Get your weapon out, thumb on the safety. Expect anything on the other side of that door and stay behind me.” Duke stepped forward, his gun already pointed at the door as he hit the button and waited for it to open.
He held his breath, but there was no one on the other side of the door. He stepped out sweeping from side to side, but there was still no one. He checked his suit to see what the atmosphere inside was like. It came back clean, some particulate matter that would indicate that there had been a fire onboard at some point. Otherwise, the atmosphere was clean for breathing, but Hans kept his helmet on anyway, just to be safe.

He led the way towards the cockpit in hopes of finding someone. According to the information that he had pulled up about the Albatross, it should have a crew of about five people. It was just an interstellar cargo ship.
It didn’t take long till they got to the door that would open to the cockpit. He held his hand up for Duke to stop. He didn’t want to make them both easy targets. He hit the button to open the door, he could hear the mechanism whir, but nothing happened.

Hans glanced back at Duke and shrugged. He holstered his weapon and activated the suit to suit communication system. “It won’t open. We’ll need to open it manually. I can cover you if you can open the door since you’re better with that and I’m better with a gun.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Duke pushed past as Hans pulled out his gun again. He kept it focussed on the door, but he split his attention between the door and the hallway. He didn’t want anyone to sneak up on them.

“Okay, got it.” Duke finally said. “Be ready, I’m about to open the door.”
Hans heard the whirring sound again, but this time the door opened to reveal a woman with a very big gun pointed in their direction. “Don’t move or I’ll shoot. Identify yourself!"

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