If at first you don't succeed
May 7th 2012
Ear deafening applause was running through the large conference hall of SOS-Con. After the speech of Haruhi Suzumiya the majority of the Convention was sure that they had to join forces to do something about this bastard Boskones. The whole scene looked like a mixture of an anthill being topped over and a large mob that was looking for the pitchforks and the flamethrowers. But of course not everyone was happy.
“Its really frustrating” said Cathy to another Fen, “of course I asked if I could help them with OGJ, my Stargazer has one of best radio systems in whole Fenspace. But of course that is not that important... do you have combat experience or a power armor ? Is your craft armed ? Is your craft equipped with stealth or is it faster than normal crafts.”
Cathy was shaking her head. “It’s just not fair, where should I get an armed craft? I built the Stargazer just a few years ago, and a few months ago everyone still told everyone that you don’t need an armed spacecraft! The large factions can afford to refit their crafts on the fly, but that is too expensive for me.”
While the Fen in front of her was trying to say something calming, Cathy was already looking back at one of the Senshi’s she had talked with. Nobody was surprised that the Senshi’s were one of the first factions supporting OGJ directly, beating others by a few heartbeats.
“What the hell is she doing with that phone the whole time” asked Cathy silently. “Oh, she is just having a few encrypted talks with some friends I think” answered Cortana, do you want me to...?” “No” hissed Cathy quickly, the last thing she wanted to happen was to be caught with wiretapping some OGJ organizer, maybe while talking with someone from SOS-Dan. “But wait Cortana, I think I have an idea.”
“I know you, you were here half an hour ago. I thought I said you we will be happy to think about how you can help with Operation Great Justice, but it’s not that easy in your case” the Senshi said. smiling about Cathys second approach.
Cathy took a deep breath to “I think you just did not phrase it correctly, Cortana and me are really good in doing radio based reconnaissance with the Stargazer... take your encrypted phone as an example.”
“Someone told you that this is not a normal phone ?” Suddenly the Senshi sounded a little bit suspicious, looking over Cathy intensively.
“No... Yes... ah, just wait, we can demonstrate it” said Cathy with a smile, and the phone began to ring.
“Excuse me for a moment” the Senshi turned away for a moment to answer the phone call. “Yes? Who is there ? How do you got....” She looked back to Cathy, not sure how to continue. “Please greet Cortana for me, she is the AI of the Stargazer... told you we are good with SIGINT” Cathy said, visibly enjoying the conversation now. “Don’t you think the Boskones will have a lot of encrypted radio too ?”
“Okay, I got your argument... I think we might have use for you, Cortana and your ship... we should talk later about this when we have some privacy... come back tomorrow morning. *she smiles* and welcome to Operation Great Justice.”
»Cathys personal log, June 2nd, 2012.
The first chaotic weeks of Operation Great Justice are over and everyone is looking forward to show the Boskones that we will stop them once and for all... if we can find them. This seems to be a little bit more difficult than anyone have thought, but we will do it anyways. So here we are, sneaking through a part of the main belt and looking for evidence of Boskone operations. Even if this sounds a little bit boring, I have not been this exited since lifting of from Earth two years ago.«
The Stargazer was cruising through the Main Belt, listening intensively to the electromagnetic noise coming from all directions. In the past any unusual radio signal from any direction except Earth would have been a sensation, but today every asteroid could house a small Fen community, everywhere you could meet a small waved spacecraft zipping around. Cortana had grabbed a copy of the SETI@Home software three weeks ago to get more ideas about recognizing radio communication, but all of the unknown artificial signals they had detected up to this point had been false alerts. It had been nice to chat face to face with some Fen in their cargo trailer which were delivering some goods to the Wizards, but there was still no evidence of any activity of the Boskones.
“Okay Cortana, I think we have checked this sector, let’s plot a course to the next one. Maybe we should start making maps where are the places people trade regularly, that way we might find sections of the Main Belt not used too often but not completely empty. I don’t think the bad guys want to wait for months until they finally see a single victim.”
Cathy opened her notebook and started working on a report about the sector when Cortana whistled through the speakers of the radio.
“Cathy, this might be something more important than the last signals we got. It’s signal to noise ratio is good, it has a very clear modulation and is just a short binary message... I think this one is an emergency beacon. Not very strong, they might be low on power. Shall I plot an interception course to look for the source of the message?”
“Yes Cortana, do so at once, and activate a broadband radio connection.”
Cathy could see the radio going to active transmission while the engine of the Stargazer accelerated the spacecraft towards its new target.
“Unknown spacecraft, this is the Stargazer. We are receiving your emergency beacon, please go active and respond...” Cathy waiting for a minute or two, but the radio stayed silent. “Hello, this is the Stargazer... can you hear me ?”
“Nothing Cathy, not even a change in their beacon. But I will monitor it, maybe they have been waiting for hours and need to get back to the radio.”
“Okay Cortana, I will get into my spacesuit... if there are some Fen in trouble, we have to see if we can help them... and maybe they have some information for us too, maybe they have been attacked.”
“I will repeat your call a few times... we should be there in a few minutes” Cortana answered, still listening to the incoming radio message.
On a spacecraft far away from the current position of the Stargazer, someone looked up from his console and said “I got an incoming radio signal, someone is asking if we need assistance. Turn on our oxygen leak bottle...”
It always took Cathy some time to get her spacesuit from the back of the ship and put it on. The Stargazer might not be the smallest waved car in orbit, but it wasn’t that large either, so getting into a spacesuit was not that easy, even when the Stargazer did not carry additional passengers. But finally the suit constricted around Cathy to built up pressure against the coming Vacuum. Cathy put the transparent helmet bubble on the co-driver seat and climbed back to her common place in the front.
“Okay Cortana, I am back again... suit selftest gives me a green light. Tell me more about the source of our emergency beacon.”
“We should be there in a few moments, the craft is in the Shadow of a larger asteroid, maybe to prevent overheating. The beacon is still active, just a short mayday message formatted in standard ASCII, repeated over and over. No change since you asked the last times, they did not hear us or they are unable to change their radio beacon.”
“Switch on the front lights, I want to see it” Cathy said as she piloted the Stargazer around the asteroid and tried to look for the edges of the large object in the shadow. “There it is... some kind of small transport, built from a large container truck. Hmm... okay, definitely a container truck, with some kind of connection between cockpit and trailer. Let’s see if the pilot is still inside... damn, why did this idiots got mirrored glass for their cockpit, no way to look into it. *sigh* Cortana, do you see any evidence of damage? Or maybe something that looks like a reaction of the crew?”
Cortana activated her projector and the front screen displayed a wireframe image of the truck. “I see some dents below the container and the front of the engine space does not look smooth, but I am not sure if it is a real hole.” The Stargazer circled down to look at the bottom of the transport, illuminating it with its headlights. Then a new screen window opened on the projected display and showed a magnified image of the trucks bottom. “I see some movement, small ice crystals moving away from the truck... I think they might have a leak and loosing water or air... or maybe both.”
“That might explain why they cannot answer anymore, they are loosing air and are already unconsciousness. But at least they are STILL loosing air, so they might be still alive. Pump out the air of the Stargazer, I am going for a spacewalk to glue something over the hole and looking for an airlock. Maybe if we provide them with a little bit air for some oxygen masks, they will be okay long enough that we can pull them to the nearest spaceport for repairs. Or maybe they have to come over here to the Stargazer, I don’t think we will have enough air to put pressure back into the whole truck.”
A few moments later Cathy was leaving the open door of the Stargazer with a roll of waved duct-tape in her hand, slowly floating to the point where Cortana had seen the small leak. It took some time to get a good grip on one of the small pipes on the bottom of the truck to get a good grip on it, but a few minutes later to layers of tape closed off the leak. ‘Have to build a waved grappling hook or suction cap pistol some day’ Cathy thought while waiting for a moment to see if more air was leaving the truck. Happy with the makeshift seal she began to push herself back towards the waiting Stargazer.
“Okay, the leak is fixed I think, the duct-tape should keep this hole shut for at least a few days.” Or maybe more, Cathy had never experimented that much with her rolls of waved duct-tape. Even before waving that stuff was tough and difficult to remove, but the waved variant could be a pain to get off... or even put a hole into it. Luckily cutting it before placing it onto an object still worked well. “Let’s move the Stargazer to the side of the cab Cortana, I remember seeing some kind of door on the back side.”
A closer examination of the cockpit revealed a narrow steel door with a hidden control panel on the outside. A small display activated on touch and opened the entrance to a small and airless room with a second door. Cathy activated her spacesuits helmet lamp and stepped into the airlock, closing the outer door behind her. Some moments later air was being pumped into the airlock.
‘Okay, air pressure and temperature are okay, they cannot have lost much oxygen. Maybe they just had an engine problem’ Cathy thought while opening the inner door and stepping into the dark interior of the truck.
“Hello, is someone here” she shouted into the darkness when she suddenly felt a larger object being pushed into her side.
“FREEZE” an unknown voice told her, holding a large shotgun against her spacesuit. “And keep you hands where I can see them...”
Cathy stared at the barrel of the weapon, unable to move or think clearly for a moment. “But... you... I...” she babbled, before recognizing the trap she had fallen into. “YOU BASTARD! Your emergency beacon was a fake” she shouted but the man just laughed.
“Shut up... and turn around your back towards me... do what I say and you wont be hurt... don’t do it... *he sighed* and someone will have to clean up a lot of mess afterwards.”
Cathy slowly turned her back on the man. She never had tested how resilient her spacesuit was against guns and did not feel that this was a good idea to test this now.
“Good... very good” the man said, taking a step back into the connection between cockpit and container. “Now take of your helm slowly and let it fall down... don’t even think about throwing it at me. Take it off... NOW.”
“What do you want” she asked nervously while pushing a button on the spacesuits wrist-computer. The helmet clicked when the seal opened and Cathy carefully removed it and dropped it on the ground.
“Oh, not so fast... let’s begin with taking off this wrist thing. The boss has set up some pretty strict rules for guests and electronics. Drop it just besides your helmet.”
“The wrist computer is a part of the spacesuit... it’s for environmental control and for the two flashlights on the suit. I cannot take it off” Cathy replied, keeping quiet about the radio in the computer. She turned her head around, trying to get a gaze at the man behind her. “Maybe I can just switch it off ?”
“That’s tough shit baby. but don’t worry yourself too much about. Just get out of the spacesuit, you will not need it anyways in here. We have well maintained air condition through the whole ship and plenty of oxygen left for passengers. AND NO LOOKING AT ME.”
Cathy hissed unhappily while slowly getting out of her spacesuit. ‘If I get out of this damned thing alive Cortana will never stop teasing me with it’ she thought. “Okay, I think I don’t have electronics left... are you pleased now ?”
“Oh yes, of course I am pleased...” he purred smugly, “You will even get a compensation for your spacesuit, think about it as a mark so we don’t forget about it. It is for the back, not the front. Put them on and lets see if they fit.”
Cathy looked down to the ground to the objects the man had thrown at her... a pair of handcuffs. She sighed and put them on as being told, there was no way to try something stupid now.
“Let’s see if they fit correctly... yes, that’s good. Now turn around and I will show you your new apartment.” With this words he pushed Cathy around to a small door in the trailer, which lead to a small bare room. “Don’t damage anything” he said with a grin, then locked the door behind Cathy.
‘Great, just great’ Cathy thought while looking at the bare steel walls of the empty room, “how will I ever get out of this mess again ? I hope Cortana is doing fine.’
Warera threw Cathys spacesuit into a corner of the meeting room in the container and looked at his boss.
“Your strategy worked like a charm, boss... but you will not believe it... we got ourselves a catgirl this time. Nice look but brash mouth, it will bring in some good money if we can make it shut up. I have cuffed it and put it into the cell.”
“You idiot, It is CAPTAIN, not boss anymore... *he smiled* but you did excellent work, making money this easy is just what I like. Rory, shut down our oxygen release, no need to waste more gas than necessary. Hmm, do you think we can get the car into the cargo section of the trailer ?”
“No chance bo... CAPTAIN” Rory said, “it’s a little bit too long, I have already looked at it. But I am not even sure it would be worth much money, just another waved family car without visible modifications or weapons.” He looked at the outlet of a small gas bottle mounted at the floor of the container. “That is strange, we are not loosing oxygen anymore. Seems we have to get rid of another improvised repair, this is getting boring.”
The boss sighed: “Damn, would have been nice to sell it for a small bonus... or just to keep it myself. Warera, get out and shoot a hole into the front window, they will assume it was killed by a small rock and the cat drifted of while trying to repair it. And see if you can shut down the electronics. After this we will move to a somewhere else for the next grab.”
Warera sighed, it was always the one already in the spacesuit who had to do the difficult jobs outside the truck. Of course today being the one in the armored spacesuit included the bonus capturing the cat. He walked towards the airlock and quickly left to truck, looking at the Stargazer still floating roughly ten meters away from his position.
‘Shut down the electronics yourself or buy a bigger gun next time’ he thought, pointed his gun towards the front window and pulled the trigger. Firing a gun with a recoil absorber in space without hearing anything was still feeling wrong, but seeing a spherical forcefield flare up around his target and deflecting his bullet was downright scary.
“BOSS! This damned thing has an active forcefield! I cannot get a good angle, the bullet is bouncing off!”
“Shit. Get inside here at once, we are leaving” the captain decided quickly.
“But captain” Rory said, “what if that thing has an AI inside that can call for help ?”
“Yes, of course... tell me, what kind of AI would stay motionless and without a radio crying out loud curses when being shot. Either this thing has no AI or it is not connected to important car systems. And do not start thinking about using this wrist-computer of the cat, you are not paid for thinking. I don’t want to accidentally trigger a radio beacon or something like this. We are getting out of here. NOW.” He pressed a button on a console in front of him. “Conda, start the engine, we are going home for lunch.”
Cortana was staring out of the Stargazers cameras, trying to grasp what had happened in the last minutes.
“This damned idiots... first they pretend to have an emergency and steal my cat and now... now they are shooting at me! That... that is unacceptable” she was talking towards herself while thinking about what to do.
She was very happy to learn that the Boskones gun had been less powerful than the micrometeorites Cathy had designed the shield of the Stargazer to block, but everything else was bad, really bad. For a moment she had thought about starting the engine and ram the bastard who captured Cathy, but that would have alerted the idiots that there WAS an active AI within the Stargazer. They had not even recognized that the wrist computer was still transmitting a compressed datapacket every few minutes.
Outside of the Stargazer the truck was accelerating away, unaware of the small beacon it was carrying.
“Don’t think I will let you out of radio range bastards... If I could do so, I would strangle you idiots with my bare hands... *sigh* but it seems I need some help to do the strangling.”
“Asteroid between me and the truck ? Check... radio frequency for distress channel ? Check... operation great justice default encryption? Check! Lets see if someone is there” Cortana murmured while pushing the radio transmitter of the Stargazer to full power.
“Hello to all Great Justice ships, this is Cortana... I lost my cat and need help!”
“Log Entry June 2nd 2012 <16:00hrs>. Captain Garret Entering.
Met Convoy 2 days out of Jupiter. Transport SS Great Scott is having radio trouble. Communication by laser communication only. Expect arrival in Port Phobos in 3 days. These big transports are a bit too slow for us. Chief Engineer has shut down engine 2 to save fuel. Today's drill was a success, the Sammies are integrating well. Crew Morale is good. All told our first mission is going well.”
Garret powered down the tablet, and took a glance out his cabin window. In the distance, the former 707 fuselage that was now HMS Warlock hovered alongside, as if suspended from a string. Damn she was close.
Behind the Warlock... though appearing much closer due to her sheer size and vacuum’s tendency to distort perspectives, was the Great Scott. Like all convoy ships, her running lights were off, with her engine output minimized to make detection a little harder.
Another kilometer ahead of the Great Scott, was the gas tanker Get out my Way I’m Bigger than You. She was... well named.
The Convoy bunched close together, allowing Warlock and Ciara to cover the entire convoy with their sensors. It kept stragglers from being picked off.
Garret left his cabin, passing up through the break room. There was a smell of recent cooking hanging that made his mouth water. Two Sammies heading aft from their cabin, passed him with a quiet greeting.
It was funny, the Ciara seemed to have acquired a strange energy and enthusiasm... and not just from her crew. Even the air aboard seem to tingle with excitement and anticipation. Garret figured it might’ve been the ship herself, enjoying being back in a military role for the first time in two years.
He passed through a hatch that was supposed to be kept sealed... but which someone had jammed open with a fire-extinguisher. The reason why was coming down the corridor... Touji and one of the new Senshi were pushing a cart towards him, with the repaired motor off of one of the Jaguars on it.
He got out of their way, before climbing up the gangway that led to the bridge.
“Captain on deck!” someone announced.
“Anything new?” asked Captain Garret.
“Not a thing nyaa~” Anne, the XO, announced.
“Grand so,” said the Captain. He glanced around. Another new face working the comm’s panel. Sam was half asleep at the helm with the ship cruising on autopilot. “Anything on sensors?”
Anne checked the panel in front of her, held the results from the most recent scans. “Radar’s Nothing but us out to ten light seconds. Thirty seconds starts bringing in some other crossing traffic heading along the belt. Nothing appears to be on intercept course. One minute’s a little crowded, the computer’s still figuring it out.”
Silence. Everyone turned towards the comm’s operator.
A small light on the panel flickered in time with the electronic beep.
“Encrypted signal on the OGJ distress frequency,” the operator said, a little nervous. “Triangulates to within 20 seconds.”
An apprehensive murmur ran around the bridge. A heavy fog of tension descended.
“Put it through,” Garret ordered.
And anguished, artificial-sounding voice came across the speakers.
“Hello to all Great Justice ships, this is Cortana... I lost my cat and need help!”
“Wut?” said Sam, blinking owlishly. “Did she say ‘cat’?”
Garret grabbed the mic from overhead. “Cortana SS Ciara. Say again, did you say you lost your Cat?”
“It’s got to be a kid of some sort,” Anne said, quietly. The comm’s operator was trying to hold in a chuckle.
The voice returned after nearly a minute of dead air. “Hello SS Ciara, this is Cortana of the Stargazer... yes, I lost Cathy. She is in trouble and we need help quickly.”
Sam sobered up. “Doesn’t sound like a child. Whoever she is, she sounds serious. And she has a comm with current OGJ distress codes.”
Garret turned to the comm’s operator. “Registry data on a ‘Stargazer’. Cross-ref for Cortana.”
It took a few moments for the information to come up “SC Stargazer. Registered to a ‘Cathy’. Waved light car. Secondary Crew, an AI by the name of Cortana. Crew notes: Cathy is a biomodded catgirl. Currently assigned to Sailors Armed Militia.”
Anne’s ear’s pricked up. “Another one...”
Garret transmitted back: “Stargazer, Ciara. Cathy is a catgirl? “
40 seconds later the voice of Cortana returned again: “Ciara, Stargazer. Yes, Cathy is a catgirl. We found a truck with an oxygen leak and a low powered distress beacon... when Cathy entered it to look at the crew she was captured. A trojan horse... or maybe trojan truck. I am chasing the truck from a few lightseconds distance, but I need help to free Cathy. Can you help us ?”
“Well, send us your position, heading, and whatever data you have on them, we’ll get after them.” Garret responded. Placing the mic back in it’s holder and took a deep breath. Adjusting his jacket a little, he felt a sudden thrill of excitement. A rescue mission, how cool and right. “Bring the ship to Action stations. Condition one. Tell Seán to get both engines up to full power. Signal the Warlock. Let them know we’re answering a distress call,”
The Klaxon sounded three times. As the crew got about it, he was beginning to feel like he was getting better at this Captain thing.
One could hear that Cortana’s voice on the other end was very relieved to hear this. “I can send you a feed of their position so you can plan where to get them and some pictures of the target... if you want I could send you a delayed audiostream from their control room in the trucks trailer somewhere. But please be careful, its just a truck with a large container... don’t shoot too many holes into it, Cathy does not wear an spacesuit anymore from what I heard.”
Ciara’s comm’s operator looked up, “Captain, she’s patching through a signal from their cabin. I’ve locked it in.”
“Got them, coming to new heading,” Sam said. The ship’s maneuvering thrusters fired like distant cannon shots, pushing the bow around. Beneath the bridge, the second engine shuddered to life, a cloud of hot black smoke billowing out the ship’s exhausts.
“Message from Warlock” said the increasingly harried radioman. “They’re ordering us to stand down, or they’ll report us for deserting to convoy.”
“Send to Commander Warlock. Irish ships in convoy always answered distress calls, we’re just upholding that tradition.”
While it was true they weren’t supposed to leave the convoy... twenty light seconds was still damned close for something to be operating... close enough to be worth investigating at least. Twenty light seconds out meant a lead time of about 5 minutes on any attack coming in. While the vicinity zone was officially 10 seconds, Garret felt that was a little bit too close, especially for a confirmed enemy presence.
And going charging on a rescue mission also felt like a damn good thing to do.
The gray destroyer heeled around with quick flashes from her engines and thrusters before accelerating away from the convoy.
Cathy was not having her best time in Fenspace. Being thrown in the small bare cell after her attempt to rescue the crew of the truck had been a shock for her. It had never crossed her mind that someone would fake an emergency beacon to trick someone else into boarding their ship. Using fake radio calls to draw ships into a trap yes, but letting unknown Fen boarding you ? What kind of idiot developed a plan like this? They could have gotten a fen with a power armor, a heavy combat biomod or something worse... but they had not; they had got an unarmed stupid catgirl and Cathy was aware that not carrying any kind of weapon might have been a mistake. Unfortunately carrying a gun without knowing how to use it might have been even worse, the man at the airlock could just have shot her. “Oh come on Cortana, think about something” she murmured, she was troubled because she had no idea what these people had in mind for her. Knowing that the Stargazer and Cortana were as unarmed as herself did not really help to calm down too.
In the meeting room at the front of the trucks trailer the mood was much better.
“No suspicious radar contacts captain” Rory said, leaning back from his console. “Neither those nosey Senshis nor anyone else who might want our new cargo back.”
“Excellent” the boss answered with glee, “just let me know if anything happens. Next time we will get some cables to tow the spaceship of the victim with us too, double profit for the same work.”
“Where do you plan to sell it” asked Warera, “since they started breeding them somewhere else its harder to sell the wild ones. If we don’t find a buyer we might just keep it, just get it a nice collar and it can be the ships mascot.”
“No way, we need some more money to upgrade the truck, get better sensors and maybe some stealth paint will make it much easier to get more victims. Or maybe we can get some hidden weapons, that would allow us to make a grab for larger crafts. So unless we cannot sell it, no personal catgirl for you... you are here for work, not for... “ he grinned “ your personal interests. If you want one, you buy it from your payment.”
“Boss, I think I am getting some radar contact coming our way. A pretty large one, maybe a freighter. Shall we change our vector so that it doesn’t pass us too closely ?”
The radio on the console suddenly blinked with the green light of an incoming radio call.
“This is the Star Destroyer Ciara. Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded”. The ‘request’ was punctuated by the a rather large explosion, right in front of the truck’s cab. Shrapnel pattered against the windows.
Five bricks from their cargo fell to the deck with a thud, and the boss wondered for a moment who’se ass he was supposed to kick for not securing them properly. That purple shit was expensive. In her cell Cathy was cursing when she got thrown around, was Cortana throwing rocks at this idiots ?
“What the hell was that?” asked the first.
“Did they say... Star Destroyer?” asked the second, running forward into the cab, half panicked
“Where the hell did they come from you blind idiot” the boss yelled at Rory. “I thought you said it was clear?”
“Don’t worry boss, these Star Wars fan couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from inside it” Warera reassured.
Rory gulped visible, but pretended to concentrate on his console. “Ciara... Ciara... there it is... its a... holy shit!” he yelped “We’ve got to run... thats a fukken warship! Not some po-dunk patrol bus”
The boss paled visibly. “Get us out of here fast... hide somewhere... keep them away... DO SOMETHING...”
“I think they botched their notice roll,” Anne remarked with a smirk. With the push of a button, she readied another round in the main gun. “And that sure as hell woke them up.”
“Like cockroaches when you turn on the light,” Sam remarked. “Will I pull alongside?”
“Do it,” said the Captain. “Get us within boarding range, and repeat our warning,”
“This is the Star Destroyer Ciara. Cut your engines and prepare to be boarded” Megan broadcast, having taken over the station. “If you do not stop, we will stop you.”
Something about that made her grin. She was glad she stayed aboard now.... this was fun.
The forward gun fired with a hollow thump, exhausting steam into space as the barrel was flushed cool. A few moments later, the shell burst in front of the accelerating truck with a muted orange flash and a puff of grey smoke. The truck just ploughed forwards through the debris.
“They aren’t stopping nyaaa~” Anne said
“Alright, ready the twenty-millimeters.” Garret ordered, “We want to stop ‘em, not blow them up. Target their engines. Get the boarding team on Luna”
“They are shooting again” Rory cried and tried to find something to hang on while the driver of the truck tried to evade the incoming fire. The whole truck was ringing again as the second warning shots fragments were impacting on the hull.
“I am doing what I can but they are still getting closer” Conda shouted from the cockpit, “I don’t think we can shake them. What shall we do boss.... BOSS ? I think you need to...”
His sentence was cut off by a strange, distant rattle, running up the side of the cab followed by the crackling of glass and a strange cold draft, as if someone had opened a window on a cold morning.
The last thing to go through his head... apart from a 20mm autocannon round... was that maybe he should have just stopped the truck.
From the meeting room in the trailer the rest of the crew listened in horror as the sound of the engine died and took the trucks artificial gravity with it. For a few moments everyone just sat motionless on their chairs, trying to grasp what just had happened while the air was slowly leaking out of from underneath the door to the trucks cab.
Rory reached to open it... “Hey, we gotta help him in there!” But as much as he pulled at the door handle, the air pressure held the door closed. Luckily the loss of gravity made it difficult for him to apply his full strength.
“You Idiot!... You’ll kill us all!” the boss cried to Rory in a panic. His eyes scanned the room for any possible escape, but there was none.
Warera listened to the sound of the escaping air for a few more moments, then pushed himself towards the rack where their emergency toolbox had been before. It took him a while to find the small blue box on the other side of the room, floating in a corner.
“We have to seal this door or we’ll all die! Dontcha know people explode in vacuum?”
Finally he found what he had been looking for and pushed himself to the door to the cockpit of the truck, nearly colliding with his boss who was slowly rotating in mid air. “Does anyone know how long this door will hold the air inside?” the boss asked
“How long will it take them to get through it?” Rory snarked back. “If the door to the cabin breaks down, we will all die a gruesome death.”
The boss seemed to be calming down and thinking about this situation: “Maybe we can capture their boarding craft ? Still a chance to get out of here without getting to jail... or worse?”
A small speedboat launched off the stern of Ciara, it’s ten occupants wearing pressure suits... one of which has a distinctive Hello Kitty logo on the helmet. Li gritted her teeth and focused her attention on the boat’s pilot... one of the Ciara’s crew who’s name she hadn’t quite learned yet.
He seemed to be wrestling with the boat and it’s tendency to try and circle back towards the Ciara if he didn’t give it his entire focus. Kitty liked going back to mommy...
“C’mon Luna... datsa good cat,” she heard him chiding the RHIB gently along. He was petting the console in front of him. “Li, I’m takin’ us up ta dat airlock besoide de cab... looks ta be still in wan piece.”
Their accents still made her wince, however. Charming brogue my fuku’d ass!.... it was a pain in the butt to understand on a radio.
“Right so,” Li answered... before wincing. Now they’d got her doing it!. First real launch. First real rescue. First real fight for love and justice! “Everybody, remember how we trained for this back at Osaka?“
Four other girls chorused with a saccharine “Yeah!”
“Five Sailor Soldiers of the Crystal Cities never to Fall. Charged by Queen Serenity herself with defending the peace. For love, justice and the Fennish way we will punish them for their despicable crimes.”
The pilot turned off his comm-link with a click, audible by all. He pushed the boat’s throttles forwards, the vibrations coming up through the structure of the boat getting stronger as it’s engines pressed it alongside the battered truck. It was trailing globules of hot engine oil and diesel vapor
There didn’t appear to be much left of the cab.... just to be sure there were no machine guns waiting, he glanced inside.
And nearly threw up in his helmet. There are some things you just cannot unsee. Focusing on the task at hand, he bumped the boat up against the truck’s airlock and engaged two magnetic locks pinning it to the side.
“Righto ladies, Get yous’re selves ready,” he broadcast. “I’ve got the door.”
He didn’t hear their response, but could see them nod. He hooked the electronic lock picking module up to airlock panel and set it working.
“Knock knock, open wide, see what’s on the other side,” he intoned the ritual words demanded by it. Stupid thing. The airlock responded by exhausting the pressure inside. “Knock knock, anymore?.. see what’s through the Magic Door.”
The hatch locks came open, the door swinging open slowly, while the control panel displayed video footage from Dublin Zoo. As usual, he sighed.
“Anna, Livia, You come with me.” Li ordered. “The next group will follow us as soon as we are inside and have closed the inner door again” she said and and entered the the airlock.
A few moments later after the outer door had been closed, air streamed into the small room until pressure was equalized. She opened the inner door and the two Senshi entered the spacecraft’s interior.
‘No internal gravity’ she sighed internally... at least her fuku had been wired for zero-g. Mag-heels helped her walk, electromagnetic stilleto’s thunking on the deckplates beside some tied down crates. She turned towards the sealed door, behind which she guessed the enemy was and popped her visor. The smell of diesel oil and gunsmoke... and something that might’ve been hamburger stunned her for a few seconds.. The door leading into the cab proper looked to have been sealed with foam by some auto-system.
Behind her, she heard the airlock door close again. Readying a chocolate grenade, she stepped out firmly into the doorway and kicked it down hard. Time to go looking for trouble....
“In the name of Queen Serenity, I order you to lower your weapons and...”
Li was interrupted by a burst of gunfire. ‘How rude!’, she thought as she dived for cover behind a crate, ‘I did not even had time to finish.’ Bullets rattled against the wooden packaging, before burying themselves deep in something soft inside. Li thought she heard someone cursing farther inside the trailer, something about idiots and cockpit doors.
The gunfire died down, she looked back towards the sealed door to the trailer and then around the crates side. The crew of the ship were hiding behind a desk and some other crates at the other end on the room. Come through the door... and get riddled with bullets.
Seifuku underwear was skintight, airtight... but not bulletproof. She pulled the pin from her chocolate grenade and swallowed.
“Eat this!” she yelled, throwing it into the room. It sailed high... panicked voices shouted from the end of the trailer, desperately scrambling for cover.
“Get on top of it!” someone screamed.
“Screw you man, I ain’t gonna...”
He was cut off by the muffled thump of the grenade detonating; a strange sound like paint being poured, and the heavenly smell of roast dark bourneville chocolate. The bittersweet taste of victory.
She stepped out into the doorway once again, Hello Kitty 416 raised. The sight that greeted her was hilarious. An entire room, coated in cooling liquid chocolate, with three chocolate covered men in the center... floating near a table, looking stunned. As if they couldn’t believe that it was chocolate coating the walls, and not their own selves.
“... I order you to lower your weapons and surrender immediately. Comply now, despicable criminals, or I will punish you in high heels.”
It was only after she’d said that... that she realized to the wrong ears, it could sound more like an offer than a threat.
“Alright...” one of them said limply. “We give.”
The fat one looked almost betrayed.“Who the hell are you” he cried, “and why are you shooting at my ship ? We...”
He paused for a moment to think about something believable.
“We had a radio problem a few hours ago and suddenly you start killing my crew! I demand an explanation about this! Get out of here at once!”
Li put her hands on her hips. “Lying fiend! We received a distress call and a report of a kidnap. We tracked the victim to this ship using her personal communicator. We could even hear you plotting your nefarious schemes over it. We have more than enough to lock you away for a very long time” she reassured him.
A small speaker cracked, and the voice of Cortana could be heard from an abandoned spacesuit, muted by a layer of chocolate.
“You... you... you damned bastards tried to steal my cat... and were stupid enough to leave the radio on. Fools, all of you!”
The boss looked with shock towards the source of Cortana’s voice and then back to Li. He sighed loudly and shook his head. Li tried not to laugh at how Bond-villainess the voice sounded.
“Where is she?” Li demanded.
“Damned catgirl, it was nothing but trouble” he murmured angrily. “The beast is in the room to the left of the corridor you are standing in... no lock, just a bar from the outside.”
There was no arguing with an armed Senshi... not when your own pistol was gummed up with Cadbury’s finest.
Li waved the other Senshis to keep an eye on the three gangsters and turned around to the two doors left and right of the corridor to the cab. She walked to the left one, pulled the bar aside and opened the door.
Cathy was floating in the middle of small room, trying to look over her shoulder to see who was opening the door. She sighed relieved when she saw the Senshi standing in the door and tried to push carefully against a wall to rotate towards her.
“You cannot believe how happy I am to see you” she said. “All this shooting and the explosions out there sound really scary if you cannot see what is going on.”
She smiled, still rotating slowly in zero gravity. Finally this terrifying and thrilling events on this stupid Boskone truck were over.
“Do you have the key for the handcuffs ?”
Finding the handcuff key in all the chocolate proved to be a challenging task, but after questioning Warera about the key the Senshi were able to find it on a small key holder box on the desk of the radio console. Cathy was just glad to have her hands free again, still rubbing her wrists as she cleaned up her chocolate coated spacesuit, constantly forced to listen to Cortanas complaining how easy it had been for the gangsters to kidnap Cathy.
After putting on her suit again... and getting chocolate in her fur....Cathy was brought back aboard the Ciara, along with the Senshi busy congratulating themselves on their great success for justice.
The surviving Boskonians were last to be taken aboard... secured in a cabin with some added locks on the door and a paper sign duct-taped to the door advising anyone walking passed that it was the official ‘Brig’.
At least for the time being.
The first thing that struck the catgirl was how hot and cramped it was aboard such an obviously large ship. Grey walls seemed to close in, the air smelling of sweat, coffee, diesel oil and dinner. The whole ship had the air of an old U-boat about her... with a strange mix of accents and Fandoms among her crew.
Many where obviously Senshi, others wore gearheads logo’s, or any number of others. All seemed to wear the same strange con-patch on their left shoulder. Cathy was led down into the hull, to a small but surprisingly well appointed sickbay.
Through a small porthole, she could see Cortana and the Stargazer keeping protectively close, while an engineering crew busied themselves taking the wreckage in tow. The catgirl could feel the engines vibrating through the deckplates as the destroyer began to push herself back towards the convoy.
The medic gave her a clean bill of health, before ushering her towards a spare cabin with a shower. Cat’s didn’t like having wet fur too long, but there was nothing better for getting chocolate out of fur than a steady stream of hot water.
When the jet of water hit her, she finally realized what had happened. Feeling strangely breathless, she rested back against the cubicle door, feeling her tail go oddly stiff with a creeping fear, a cold chill running through her frame.
What could’ve happened if this ship hadn’t come along? If this star-destroyer had been a little further away.
Some things didn’t bear thinking about. And this shower was much better than the one on the Stargazer.
It still made her ears flick annoyingly.
Cortana had been right, she should had been looking for some training, leaving the hull of the Stargazer had become a much more risky thing than she had ever thought.
Right then, however... she was thankful to be alive and still in one piece.
She thought about just hiding below the blanket and trying to sleep a few hours, but she was too troubled for this. Maybe it was better to look for the Senshi’s, they had been a really nice and helpful group during her stay during CrystalCon. Talking with someone about what has happened sounded much better than staying alone in her cabin.
Putting on some dry clothes she began to look for the area where the Senshi had been heading after the mission. The ship was not large enough for a group of people to hide that well.
“Hello,” she said with a hesitating smile as she found them, “I wanted to come and thank you for helping me out of this mess... I...” She stopped and sighed, it was more difficult to talk about the whole thing than she had thoughts moments before. “I don’t think I would have ever got out of this truck on my own.”
“You are welcome” Li answered, “Cortana told us what happened to you. “It wasn’t really your fault... its the first trap of this kind we have heard about, you just had no real experience with criminals like this.”
“But THAT was my fault... I never thought about what I would do if I got into a direct confrontation with them. I would never have boarded an enemy craft, but did not think what to do with a craft that needed help. I want to continue to help with Operation Great Justice, but I need to learn more about how to do it... how to defend myself in situations like this.”
Cathy sat down besides Lee who put her arm around the catgirl. “I think we can help you with this problem,” she said with a smile, “but why don’t you tell me what has happened in this truck in your own words ?”
Cathy sighed again and leaned on Li a bit.
“You know, when we got to this truck and discovered it leaking air, without a reaction from the crew, Cortana and me decided to...” she began to tell the events that happened earlier today.