Four months later
Targus activated his jet pack which yanked first Coal, and then Damion trailing along behind him on the tether line.
“MT2424 to anyone listening on this channel. Mayday! Mayday!” Coal said over his helmet’s com. “We are adrift in space. Air running low. Mayday! Mayday!”
Targus pushed a piece of the shattered hull of MT 2424 aside. Their Mobile Tactical Unit was little more than space debris. This was not how he wanted to see his command end.
8.10 hours ago
Targus leaned over Coal’s shoulder to look at the monitor. “If we jump through the Window at Triad #3 and then link into the N.B. there we should be able to make it to Valaria in plenty of time. Lay in a course.”
The crew received an invitation to 3su’s birthday party recently. 3su was a trader and transporter of people and goods throughout the known verse. The team met her a while back during a mission and Damion took a shine to her. She was a bit older than him, but that didn’t seem to bother either of them. She was an independent and unique personality who made a delicious Muldavian chocolate pecan truffle cluster cookie. A gal who could handle her own ship and cook was hard to fine in this verse.
The crew didn’t have to take a vote in order to make the decision to go. It was a no-brainer, as they say. The bash was being thrown by one of the riches people in the known verse, Daniel Drysson. He rented the central ring of the Valarian world and if what 3su was babbling on about were true when they spoke with her, he had the place fitted out with every form of entertainment you could imagine. It was going to be the place to be. Drysson decided the birthday celebration should be extended so all could attend. The event was going to be held for a full two weeks with a sit down dinner and a cake everyday for those attending.
3su made the personal call to the MT team in order to be sure they would make an appearance. A while back they were instrumental in helping her when she thought the Valarians kidnapped Daniel for his N.B. hacking program. She was almost hysterical when he disappeared and equally pissed when she and a fellow mercenary friend found him luxuriating in the Valarian’s care as they wined and dined him until he negotiated the deal of a lifetime for the program he wrote.
The MT crew did not meet Daniel at the time and 3su wanted the opportunity to introduce them. Daniel was one of her best friends and undoubtedly a master programmer. Coal was anxious to meet the man that hacked the N.B. He admired anyone with tech knowledge that surpassed his own, and few did.
“Will do Cap! We’ll be at the Window in 1.02 hours,” Coal replied. His fingers tap danced over his command panel and the ship healed over to make the course change.
“I’ll inform Galactic Headquarters that we are taking a little R&R,” Targus said. He sat down in his captain’s chair. It conformed to his huge seven foot, eight inch frame. “This is going to be fun.”
6.48 hours ago
“Afternoon men,” Damion announced as he came aboard the bridge. “Refreshments.” He sat a tray down on the console with three mugs of pitch, a favorite drink aboard ship, and a plate of Lycinic Lemon balls.
Targus reached over and picked up his favorite mug and a ball. “Where you been hiding these?” he asked his medical officer. The prep unit was not good enough to produce a delicacy like the balls. He could smell the lemon zest before his lips touched the powered sugar.
“Picked them up at our last stop at Triad SL 9.” Damion picked up a ball. “Been saving them for a special occasion, but since 3su said there would be plenty at the party, I decided we needed a treat.” He reached over and handed the tray to Coal. “Coal?” he offered.
“Hold on… Just locking onto the N.B.,” Coal stated and waved Damion away. There was a moment of silence before Coal exploded from his chair. “By the Wings of Hagel!” he exclaimed in a curse the rest of the crew rarely heard from the quiet Realdat. “Frak!” he cursed again, as his long fingers flew across the control panel as though he were trying to catch an escaping swamp rat.
At that point the bridge was pitched into total darkness.
“What just happened?” Targus demanded.
Before his computer expert could answer the ship’s system seemed to reboot itself and the lights came back on.
“Coal?” Targus asked. He hadn’t even had time to rise from his chair. Damion still stood at his side with the Lycinic lemon ball in his hand.
Coal was still chasing that invisible rat. “It’s a virus. It downloaded from the N.B.” He stopped short and spun around in his chair to face his two teammates. “I don’t have control of the ship any longer,” he admitted. “Something else does.”
6.33 hours ago
“Report!” Targus ordered.
“We’re connected to the beam, headed into Valarian space locked and loaded,” Coal said. He ran his hand through his lavender hair in frustration. “I cannot get control of the ship back in our hands,” he admitted.
“Suggestions?” Targus asked his crew of two. He was a new Captain and though he was the top of his class, the Galactic Forces had teamed him with Coal, a seasoned officer, and Damion who was the pride and joy of the Forces’ medical branch. He wasn’t too proud to ask for input. Who else had ever come into a situation where your ship was high-jacked by a virus? It wasn’t something they taught at the academy.
“Move fast, whatever we do,” Coal stated. “When we break loss from the beam this baby is going to open fire on anything within range and I don’t see any way to stop her. We are locked out of the system and I can’t shut her down.”
“Self detonator?” Targus asked.
“We can still do that manually,” Coal admitted. “Galactic officials left that independent from the master control.”
Targus came to his feet. “I’ll set the detonator, you two get to the pod. We’re abandoning ship.”
“Not in the pod, we’re not,” Coal countered. “As soon as we fire up the thrusters the virus will infect the pod and we will have two armed vehicles we can’t control. We’ll have to use the suits. They’re independent from the system.”
“Get to the pod bay and suit up,” Targus ordered. “We need to get this done before we reach the end of the beam.”
“Which is in 43.25 minutes,” Damion pointed out from the position he had taken at Coal’s side while the computer expert tried to shut the ship down.
“We have less than that,” Coal said, as he spun his chair around and came to his feet. “We’ll need at least 20 minutes to get clear of the ship before she detonates or we’re not going to make it to 3su’s party.”
“Who’s up for a spacewalk?” Damion exclaimed as he sprinted for the door. “Beat you to the pod bay,” he challenged.
Targus hit the self-destruct button and they all three bolted for the pod bay and their suits.
6.13 hours ago
The three tumbled out the bay doors into space as the ship continued to speed toward Valaria. Targus was the only one who had time to don a jet pack. The other two were tethered to him as they floated away from the ship. Cap hit his thrusters and began to pull the other two. It seemed too infernally slow. He kept looking at his gauges. They had a little over six and a half hours worth of air in their tanks. Enough for a repair job, not a spacewalk to the nearest planet.
“Did you get a fix on us Coal?” he asked.
“Got it and broadcasting as we jettisoned the ship,” Coal confirmed.
Targus should have known Coal would be on task. The man had a mind like his computers, always working.
“She’ll blow in less than 9 minutes,” Damion said, as he studied the readout on his helmet monitor.
“We’ll make it, but I want to get us turned around so if any of the debris makes it this far we can see it coming and maybe…” Targus fell silent. Maybe what? Duck? Throw out a hand and push it away? Who was he kidding? He hit the thrusters on his jet pack again and it yanked the other two along behind him like balloons on a string.
6.04 hours ago
They turned in time to see MT 2424 explode. Targus’ first command was reduced to a field of debris before their eyes. They felt the shock wave a few seconds later.
“Damn,” Damion said. “I didn’t get a single Lycinic Lemon Ball.”
The other two crew members chuckled even though the situation was dyer. It was what they liked about the human member of their crew, his gentle bedside manner and his sense of humor.