“I’m gonna need a stiff drink for this” Vera says as she instinctively reaches for the crystal snifter of expensive whisky. Her hand stops mid-way. The news that she received in the Furingort hospital after she collapsed in the waiting room was enough to make anyone drink. Yet now she can’t…not for a few months.
With a sigh she reaches for her vid-corder and stares out into the night time sea of Pagaton. She reviewed all the feed from her team during the Sea Harvester mission and the last picture that was taken of the half kilometer ship being pulled down into the depths was enough to make her shudder and close the window blinds. She pressed the ON button.
“Log 14. Pagaton of the District 268 sector. The away team consisting of Ch’ur, The 3rd, Hamster, Troll and Vassily met our employer Mr. Burnwell just outside this manor house at approximately 07:15 AM. Mr Burnwell had just returned from the main land and brought the augmented Battle Dress. He seemed a bit hung over from the night before. He was a poor choice for my Teams transport driver, but he was very specific in our contract as to the point. Again I went over the details of the mission.
1). Fly into the unusually huge hurricane and activate the transports stealth equipment.
2). Land on top of the Bridge, enter the Sea Harvester. The transport will maintain contact from a safe distance.
3). Descend into the main frame computer.
4). Download all information into the Battle Dress which will instantly transmit to the Transport.
5). Exit and await pick-up.
I am now switching to Ch’ur’s verbal log from the ride to the mission site.
“Me not like the being called Vassily. He is rot with alcohol and his eyes are of despair. Only my tolerance training from the (cretch-ta) is keep me from tearing him apart. My eyes to the being called Troll. He is donned the fancy suit that the being called Burnwell offered. I see that the large un-removable back pack is making this bumpy ride painful for him. My ears to the (sogram-gah) as they whine to make this car fly in the powerful winds. Burnwell points to the screen as they clear image of our target. It is dark.
’I don’t like this one bit guys!’ say Burnwell. ‘Something has happened to the ship. All the lights have gone out…even the emergency lights. And see here…the escape boats are all gone. We’re not even being passively sensored. I don’t like this, not one bit.’ He talk to the being called The 3rd who look at him like he was playing a game of bluffing.
‘You want us to pull out then, El Capitaan?’ The 3rd asks in a way that make me feel that I already know the answer. Burnwell takes some time to look like he thinks about our safety then say-
‘Ahhh, I guess you boys know what you’re doing. I’d hate not to pay you!’ He laughs and grins in a way that reminds me of my home planets (Chuuud-Fha), vicious insects they are. Burnwell power dives against the cutting wind and the (sogram-gah) protests in reply. Burnwell mag-grapples the roof of the bridge and I am the first one out of the small, soft space of the transport. I land and immediately dig my claws into the metal. Then I feel it.
This ship is dead.
Vera shuts off Ch’urs voice feed and resumes the log.
“The team cracked a ceiling window and descended into the Bridge. Weapon logs show that every member had activated full auto on their various guns. They were expecting a storm tossed crew ready to repel invaders, but what they found was an abandoned station with smeared blood stains on the walls and floor. A two meter hole was bored into the Plasteel storm windows with an acid-like residue. The exit door was shut and locked from the Bridge side, as if to protect the Captain from someone from the other side.” Vera flips through the photos of the Bridge. Massive damage to the stations and bolted chairs. Everything looked tossed about. No humans but the walls looked as if something licked away most of the blood. Something huge.
“The following is the Logs of Captain Regus Chumsteed, acting commander of the Sea Harvester.”
Star date 34-4-B. Had to hold a court martial on two of my crew today. They said they were fighting because they both wanted the attentions of Professor Tern. When questioned, she said she knew nothing about it and locked herself in her lab. Women aboard a sea-going vessel are just bad news.
Star date 765-2. The reports of a hurricane forming in the east are disturbing. Usually they never come from there. Lord Kalis says to play it safe and head for Furingut harbor, but I will make preps to ride it out. Nothing can hurt my ship!
Star Date 6-71-G. Taught Mr. Skittles a new trick. When I snap my fingers twice he rolls over to have his belly rubbed. Silly little scamp!
Star Date 30-K-2. The Hurricane is a beast! It rocks my ship around like a toy boat in a bathtub full of blind lesbians. As I was overseeing the preps in cargo hold #6 I saw Prof. Tern walking around. The crew says she visits that area frequently. The continual lightning storm is like nothing I’d ever seen; outgoing communications are all but useless. Lord Kalis might have had a good idea there…
Star Date 1-3487-H-12. HOLY SHIT!! The main Pylon is down!! And the intercoms to the engineering decks are silent. I have started the emergency…… ((Here the recordings end))
Vera resumes the Log.
“With no power the Team had to open an elevator and descend down into the levels of the Main Pylon where the computer banks are housed. Via the military grade communications array in the Battle Dress back pack Mr. Burnwell said that the suit Troll wore had a source of energy that could power-up the main frame long enough for the team to down load all its information. Unfortunately the video feed being sent to the Grav-Limo showed that the main computer banks were totally fried by multiple lightning bolt strikes and now was completely worthless.”
“I then accessed the ships design plans here on the Island and deduced that there was a very good chance that a second computer frame was located in the far forward section of the ship. I relayed this via Mr Burnwells communications packet and the Team came up with a plan.”
They re-accessed the non-functioning elevator shaft and descended to the Engineering levels far below the water line. With no power, even emergency lighting, it was dark. They sideways accessed the Central Propulsion control room and were going to gain access to a custodial passage way that ran the spine of the ship, right to the Secondary Pylon when Troll saw something” Vera switches to the real-time recordings.
Troll “What the Fuck?”
Troll “Here lookit here. This printout of the vibrations of the Main Engineering levels, all 6 levels. Here it’s normal, and then here it gets all shitty-like ‘cause of the storm. Then HERE it turns totally red like this ship was in an earthquake or some’in. Then here…nothing.”
Vassily “That’s ven they went uff line. Probably shuttered themselves to pieces.”
Troll “Yeah, but the emergency power was still functioning then, still printing off these sheets. And it shows NO vibrations coming from the sections just underneath us.”
The 3rd “Guys, come and look at this…”
Vera cuts to the shoulder cam on Trolls Battle Dress. The video shows Troll edging The 3rd aside and looking out a sound barrier window that partitioned the Central Engineering compartment. All that was viewable was water. Every once in a while an explosive burst of light would illuminate the murkiness. When this happened the watchers could see that there was no Central Engineering compartment.
It was gone. All 6 levels of it. Gone.
Vera resumes recording from her vid-corder.
“The team was… un-nerved by these events. With this huge of a portion of the ship torn away, it should have sunk hours ago. Yet the ship held is same geo-synchronous position in the center of a Force-10 hurricane with no apparent propulsion. I have to hand it to the boys. Either their sense of duty to the mission or their profound greed kept them going. The custodial passage way was dark and fairly straight. A few maintenance nooks cropped up here and there some with the signs of a bloody attack. Each murder site the same. Massive damage to near-by bulkheads and equipment, splattered blood on every surface nearby and the licking-like smear of the blood from the attacker.”
“As they neared the Secondary Pylon they were attacked by Lord Kalis’s security droids. 5 in all, they held to their prime directive- Protect the information of PDPT-beta . They attacked in force and The Expendables responded in kind. The 3rd secured himself partially behind a bulkhead and took careful aim and made strategic single shots to vulnerable areas of the oncoming security robots. Vassily was assisted by Ham as he un-loaded in automatic style upon the droids, sending massive amounts of damage to their entire system. Ch’ur advanced and engaged the enemy with his Aslan built Taoyuhrir sending alien death into the weak armour of terrain built automata. Then out of a service duct, Ch’ur was attacked in melee fashion. He then had to rely on his hand held Blooded Yu’hiah to do the job. Troll in his impregnable suit of Battle Dress charged past the sentinels and began to access the impregnable security door to the secondary computer room.”
“They were, of course, victorious; however, there was a problem. Troll realized that only one security robot held the code to access the computer room door. If they put in the wrong droids code to the door it would fuse-weld itself shut and the mission would fail. Vassily gathered the info-cores of the robots but found that they were so degraded that they held only 2 statements of info. One statement was true and one statement was false. They were as follows….
Robot-1—- Robot-5 does not have the Passcode…. Robot-2 has the Passcode.
Robot-2—- Robot-3 does not have the Passcode… Robot-5 does not have the Passcode.
Robot-3—- Robot-5 has the Passcode… Robot-1 does not have the Passcode.
Robot-4—- Robot-3 has the Passcode… Robot-2 has the Passcode.
Robot-5—- Robot-4 has the Passcode… Robot-1 does not have the Passcode
Vera switches to the vid-coder of Hamster.
Hamster: “Uh…guys…I think it’s…uh…the number 3 dude.”
Ch’ur: “I’m a friggin’ alien and even I think you are dumber than a (Chuur-tangi).”
Hamster: “No, listen…If the second statement of #4 is true, then…”
Vera resumes dictation.
“After Hamster types in the 3rd robots code, the doors swing open to show a powerless, yet undamaged computer core. The team gets to work, well everyone except Troll who has to stand and allow his Battle Dress back pack be hooked up to the main frame. It was then that the teams collective paranoia kicked in. The 3rd eventually pieced together that in order for me to communicate with Mr. Burnwell he’d have to be outside the hurricanes perimeter. Yet he said he’d only be 1 to 2 kilometers away from the ship. Upon investigation it showed he was 50 kilometers away and going further every moment. A renegotiation was in order.”
“Mr. Burnwell wanted the Team to transmit all the data he’ll pick them up. The Team wanted pick–up the info transmission. Mr. Burnwell did not take well to the new plan. As it turned out, when Ch’ur and Hamster pried open the titanium steel back pack lid it showed that the power source for the Battle Dress was in fact a Tactical Nuclear Warhead.”
“While in radio silence the Team crowed around Troll and his unfortunate load. Any attempts to take off the suit would alert Mr. Burnwell and he could trigger the device to explode from a distance. However the Dorrinian manufacturers put in a safety device, a shut-off switch that could only be activated by typing in one number from 0 to 9. Below the dial was this statement written in Dorrianese…
There are 3 different types of nuclear Cores in this back pack. How MANY nuclear cores are in this back pack is unknown. Logically deduce the number of cores in this back pack and dial in a number from 0 to 9 on the control panel to stop the reaction. A wrong answer will start a thermo-nuclear reaction. Good Luck.
All but two are Hydrogen Cores.
All but two are Gamma Cores.
All but two are Neutron Cores.
“Vassily came up with an answer and the team more or less agreed. He dialed in his answer and…the bomb was turned into only a power source. Nothing Mr. Burnwell could do would activate it. Resuming communications, the Team revealed that they knew he was going to blow up the ship (and them) but that plan has been stopped. The contract was successfully re-negotiated and Mr. Burnwell made the arduous trek back to the ship to pick them up. As they waited they perused the files of Professor Tern. It didn’t look good. Her records showed that the chemical was NOT as good as it was initially thought and further studies would be useless. SaSAG was going to take a big financial hit and all harvesting on Pagaton would come to a halt.”
“Further information and even samples were to be found in her laboratory near cargo hold #6. The Team makes a short journey through the gloomy hallways of the dead ship and finds Professor Terns office. They see a mahogany desk, obviously imported from off world with a personal computer on it. They hook up the Battle Dress’s power cord and activate the consul. But there is a catch. Before they can access all of her files they must read a sentence and type in how many letter F’s are in that sentence.
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
Ch’ur: “Me have studied your Galanglic good…Me type in 4!”
“Just then a jolt of cryogenic liquid squirts at Ch’ur’s genitalia causing him massive damage that slowly decreases over time. As The 3rd and Vassily give aid to the howling Aslan, Troll types in the right number and two jars rise up out of hidden slots on the desk. There are two quart sized plastic jars filled with gooey jell. Each has a data stick attached to them. On each data stick is easily removable tape. One says fake and the other says real.”
Vera switches to the personal notes data file that was taken from Tern’s computer.
Professor Tern: “I have successfully repressed all the truthful research on PDPT-beta in the Main Pylon computer banks. I know Lord Kalis reads those. I have fabricated false data-strands and a sample of downgraded PTPD-beta for the Lord Manager to view. I suspect his displeasure in these fake reports will turn him away from his post on Pagaton and the eventual collapse of the Sea Harvester Company. I have turned the awesomeness of the chemical into awfulness.”
Professor Tern: “Once SuSAG turns its attentions away from here, my Ine Givar contacts will infiltrate the local political system and the Harvesting of the Dagasi will resume. I will then endeavor to find a way to have the aerosol based chemical target the nerve cells of only humans with strong Imperium genetic code. Oh how I laugh at the image of billions of Impies writhing for hours in ungodly pain before they all die.”
Professor Tern: “My secret lover and Ine Givar spy has promised me a great reward. If the Captain gets wise to my underhandedness I will gather the true samples of PDPT-beta and all the real information from this lab and fly away with him to the stars! We will be rich beyond counting and I will remain young forever!”
Vera stops the documentation and stretches her legs. She walks over to the contract desk and looks over the recent communications with the System Manager, Lord Kalis who represents SaSAG on Pagaton. His offer to reward the Expendables for the retrieval of the truthful information of the chemical and its real sample is worth a lot to him. Fourteen Million credits. She then glances at the last photo of the Sea Harvester and again, shudders. She re-starts her documenting.
“The team split and sent half into the newly arrived Grav-Limo with guns drawn and ready for any underhandedness from Mr. Burnwell. Once transport was secure they had Troll only send the false information to our client. As the fake data showed that the chemical he so avidly sought after was a useless, poor waste of time and money his demeanor went cold and sour as he waited for the remainder of the team to arrive and secure themselves.”
“The Team arrived at the island and Mr. Burnwell paid his remaining part of the fee for our services. With bitterness in his voice he said that the Battle Dress was hard-wired with the nuclear core and was built to be only useful once. Just before he slammed shut the door to his very battered Grav-Limo he said that he hoped that a few more bullet holes would trigger the bomb/power core and blow us all to Hell.”
“That’s when they told me of the fake data they gave to the Client and their plans to give the real information and samples to Lord Kalis. I mentioned that Lord Kalis would probably start harvesting the Daghasi at an accelerated rate and the entire eco-system of this tropical paradise would crash. My eyes welled up with tears, I had grown to love this place and maybe even start a family here. Then Hamster showed me the last picture of the Sea Harvester as the Grav-Limo flew away from it. The quality was poor due to the storm but the half kilometer long ship could be seen well enough. Just underneath the waterline. Just under the waves could be seen tentacles, hundreds of them. Each with a huge 2 meter wide acid spewing orifice at the tip of the writhing mass. One side of the tentacles was full of suction cups that held fast to the steel hull of the ship. The other side was black as night and covered with millions of phosphorescent dots, like stars in space.”
“Hamster said that right after that picture was taken the Sea Harvester cracked in the middle and was sucked down into the inky depths. He said that somehow this bottom dwelling beast sensed that the Sea Harvester was destroying the balance of life and it wanted revenge. At least that’s how he saw it. The others saw it as a win/win situation. Mr. Burnwell paid us for doing exactly what he wanted, Lord Kalis will pay us to give him the information Professor Tern hid from him and Pagaton has a new if somewhat horrible protector. Hamster kissed me and went to join the others in the bar lounge.”
“I awoke just a few hours ago and now it’s 04:15 in the AM. I believe I was screaming in my sleep. A few fragments of a nightmare were clinging to my memory and that got me to thinking. After this… this great one covered in stars finishes off the remaining 4 Sea Harvesters will it go back to sleep on the lightless ocean floor, or will it still hunger for revenge?”
Vera turns off the vid-corder and walks to the doorway overlooking the sea. She wraps her arms around her belly protectively.