Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rapid Reaction Force: dispatches from the trans-martian belt

Excerpted from the Valles Observer
Our reporter Joe Cleary is current an embed aboard the Hammer, a Thor-class frigate carrying the flag of the IPTO Peace Enforcement Fleet and currently engaged in the seizure of roge fabs. His reports are subject to review and redaction for security reasons.

The klaxon signalling "general quarters" woke me with a start. I reached my "station" on the bridge within a minute or two, peering at the tactical displays through bleary eyes. The mood on the bridge was one of quiet excitement: prey in sight!

Ahead and "above" us lay the fugitive fab King Solomon ('s Mines), a huge mass of pipework connecting massy cuboids, less a ship than a weird chimera of refinery and factory, dark cables mooring her to the still-vaster bulk of the asteroid that the fab was slowing digesting. This close, the mining droids could be seen marching over the surface of the asteroid, weird ant-like machines with spitting lasers for jaws.

My civilian imagination had vaguely anticipated some dramatic space-marine dash aboard a launch to secure our victim, but Captain Jakobsdottir had nothing so dramatic in mind: fabs are no match for the agility of a frigate, and factory workers are no match for space marines. Instead, auto-dock engaged, the Hammer herself closed on the docking station with an ease that belied her weight and bulk, her bridge crew almost bored by the simplicity of the mission. Seen close-to, the true scale of the fab (previously small beside the asteroid on which it rode) became more obvious: a truly vast structure, it dwarfed the frigate. Our hailing calls went unanswered, and a squad of space marines prepared to board.

The docking ramp extended, then things got complicated very quickly. The King Solomon's "docking station" broke from the fab's hull, but remained attached to our ramp; at the same time, the docking 'cam feed on the main screen showed us the strangest thing: a huge duct on the hull of the King Solomon suddenly tore like tissue paper, and dark shapes from within sprang across the gap between the ships. The docking 'cam feed went dead immediately, and huge clangs began to echo through the hull. The hailer came alive at last, and the bridge was addressed by a synthetic voice:

"Frigate Hammer, you are trespassing on private property; a large mining charge has been secured to your docking ramp. Do not attempt to remove it; do not attempt to manouevre."

Almost immediately, consoles around the bridge began to light up with damage reports; exterior 'cams caught terrifying glimpses of mining droids racing across the frigate's hull - but only glimpses, before spitting laser jaws burnt them out. The tactical radar went seconds later; then engineering started to report damage around the main engines. Suddenly, a routine stop-and-board mission had become a pitched battle - one we had already lost, without firing a shot. Faces on the bridge were pale and tense; we all expected to be tasting the vacuum within a very few seconds.

Captain Jakobsdottir reacted quickly; in moments, she had ordered her marines onto the exterior of our hull (they always suit up for boarding operations), weapons free, to engage the mining droids. The tactical screens now switched to show feeds from head cams as the marines went into action, blasting limb after limb from the massive, insectile droids. It was a head cam that showed us the fab's next move: already disengaged from the asteroid, the engines of an attached tug were lit up, awesome power accelerating that ponderous mass steadily away from the Hammer.

The droids did not fight back, and, it seems, did not attempt to rupture the pressure hull; but then, they hardly needed to. These machines are built to shred asteroids, and their cutting gear made short work of the Hammer's senses and actuators; by the time the last droid was laser-blasted into oblivion we were blinded, immobilised - and attached to an enormous bomb. Score one for the rebellious fabbers - but to judge by Captain Jakobsdottir's expression as she received the reports from damage control, it may yet be a pyrhic victory.

No comments:

Post a Comment