Monday, 28 July 2014

Forgotten Ghosts - Part 2: A Project: Incubi short story

Greetings friends!

So yesterday we had Part One of my first short story for Project: Incubi / First Law: Override. In part one we were introduced to Paul, Red & Charlie, three members of Free Port's premier bounty team. So you know these characters will be returning characters so after this three parter is over you will see these characters in further stories.

And now, without further waffle; on with Part 2!

The UEF Patriot's doors groaned open and a rush of dust filled air forced itself from inside the ship and out into the umbilical. Paul knew that there was a high toxicity level in this ship, so he knew this would have to be quick.

Stepping inside the dead ship, Paul and Red fumbled for their head lamps, turned them on and began to survey what lay before them. Ahead was a small cargo room, littering the floor was a range of storage containers, some of them no smaller than a person's hand, others as large as a vac-helmet all of them appeared open and discarded.

"Ok Charlie" spoke Red, all signs of intoxication gone from his voice "any chance you can get us some light in here?"

There was a long pause before Charlie replied.

"That's a negative Red" Chirped Charlie "The ship's power is shot, I need you guys to access the engine room and get that bitch running again. Once done I can get you your light."

Paul turned towards the outer door of the ship and manually shut it with a heave and a grunt. The previous amount of light entering the room from the nearby star through the open door now blotted out. In response to the creeping darkness their head lamps grew brighter illuminating everything in the room with a shocking blue-white.

Ahead of them they saw the access hatch in the floor to the engine room and to their right was a magnetically sealed door to the cockpit. Red turned to Paul activating his local comms unit.

"You try and get that door open. I'll work my magic on that engine".

Paul nodded in response. He knew that Red's idea of working his magic was little more than hitting the engine with the butt of his rifle until the machine agreed to work. Paul also knew that Red's method worked.

Red pried oped the hatch to the engine room and clambered onto a nearby ladder allowing him to descend to the level below. The room had not seen much activity in a while, all around stood frozen pistons and cranks each one patiently waiting to be activated once more.

Red's wrist bleeped for a moment and he raised it to his head-cam.

"Yo Charlie!" Red barked into his mic "You gettin' this?"

"Roger that" replied Charlie, "it's probably just air displacement, but keep your gun ready".

Red looked down at his PDA, a wrist mounted device. He had recognised the bleep instantly, it was warning him of movement nearby. It couldn't have been anything alive; Charlie had already scanned the ship and there were no signs of anything. Red gritted his teeth, cursed under his breath for the twinge of fear he felt and continued into the room.

Back by the cockpit door Paul was checking over the locking mechanism. He had heard Red and Charlie's brief exchange and was growing concerned, his own PDA had alerted him to movement at the exact same time as Red's. Paul also knew that Charlie was wrong, he had seen air displacement do many things, but it was always a response to an immediate action, this time nothing had happened prior to the alert.

Paul shook his head, he was getting paranoid. It was the toxicity in the ship, it must be getting inside his suit and messing with his head. He'd need to hurry this up quickly, but there was no getting past this lock without a functioning power system.

Inside the engine room Red had found the Primary Reactor Switch. Even in the darkness of the dead ship it glowed with a dull red that pulsed as if it was the literal heartbeat of the ship. With a dry gulp Red pressed the switch and waited to unleash hell.

Nothing happened. The switch continued to pulse but it didn't response to his command. Red ground his teeth together, raised his hand and with a swing of his massive fist brought it swinging down on top of the pulsing switch.

Something clicked in the switch. The previous pulsing stopped and was replaced with a vivid continuous glow of luminous green. With a flicker and burst, each light in the engine room spluttered into life and began to form a chain of light as the reaction was cried outside the engine room across the cargo chamber and into the cockpit.

With a whirr the cockpit door slid open revealing a small room big enough for a single person to sit in the single chair that filled most of the space. In front of the chair, embedded within the dashboard of the ship controls was a large flat disk, floating above that disk was a set of holographic vertical lines in a vibrant electric blue.

As Paul entered the cockpit and sat in the chair he was surprised how the holographic lines moved and shifted, they merged together into a single ball like image, out from which a single beam of blue light was emitted that moved over his face, remaining over his eyes for half a second longer than any other part of him. Before what seemed like no time had passed the ball shifted back to the lines which stretched and retracted as a voice erupted out of the wall mounted speakers.

"Welcome to the UEF Patriot" sounded the voice from the speakers, it sounded female and was clearly manufactured to have a generic-comforting speech pattern "I am Protocol your guide and friend here to help you as you navigate your first time operating this top of the line, still in testing, Ghost Ship".

Paul was stunned, he was used to ship AIs, but they didn't normally talk to you, instead acting as a silent interpreter between human input and ship action. A moment later his Comms Unit flashed and the familiar voice of Charlie piped into his ear.

"Boss, engines are a go! We can take off whenever you are ready!" Charlie celebrated, a clear sound of pride rung in his voice.

"Good job kid" replied Paul "we'll be coming back over soon, I just have something to deal with first".

Paul turned his attention back to the glowing blue lines "Ok, Protocol was it?"

The blue lines stretched and compressed as they replied "You are correct Bounty Hunter 184269".

Paul looked even more shocked, that was his registration number the AI had quoted back to him.

"Ok, Protocol" Paul continued "Can you tell me what happened to the Ghost piloting this ship?"

The lines moved again before replying "unable to reply. No Ghost pilot has been registered for this vessel".

Paul paused for a second before readjusting his query; "Protocol, who is the registered pilot for the UEF Patriot?"

The lines blurred and then returned to normal "unable to answer query. No pilot registered to specified vessel".

Paul was getting more and more annoyed, when he heard a thundering from behind him, spinning in the chair he saw Red charging towards him.

"Boss!" Shouted out Red as he lumbered towards the cockpit "check your PDA!"

Paul looked down at his wrist, the device he wore like a watch was blinking red. It was at that moment Charlie chirped in on the comms relay.

"Hey guys!" Charlie sounded worried "You'd better get out of their now, the tox levels have risen through the roof!"

Paul turned back to the glowing blue lines, he didn't have time for this nonsense.

"Charlie!" Paul barked back at the kid "Can you get a reading on the ship's AI Core?" There was a pause for a couple of seconds "Charlie!" Paul shouted in frustration.

"Got it boss!" Replied Charlie, he sounded very pleased with himself "give me three minutes and I'll have it downloaded to our systems."

"Fantastic!" Replied Paul "Red, let's get out of here!"

The two quickly moved back to the ship's outside door which opened with ease now that power had been restored. Returning to the Goliath they stripped off their boarding suits and prepared to disembark.

Paul sat in his chair and spun around to face Charlie. "We good to go kid?" Asked Paul.

"Whenever you are boss" Charlie replied "That AI is locked down and being compiled" he continued "but let me tell you, it is like nothing I've ever seen before!"

Red spoke up from his side of the cockpit "tethers enabled Paul, the Patriot is in tow"

The Goliath's engines roared into life and in a matter of moments their FTL drive had been activated.


So that's part 2 for you! Hope you are enjoying this so far. I'll be honest, it's a little bit of a struggle as I'm having issues putting the volume of story I want to cover while making it manageable chunks. If anyone has any hints or suggestions I'd greatly appreciate it.

Today's story is a narrative example of one of the mission types called Investigation. In Investigation missions you will need to explore locations looking for items, people, equipment etc all the while having 'alert blips' sounding out possible danger. It might be toxic gas, it might be a dangerous alien or it might be a friendly little gerbil that had escaped it's cage.

The aim behind each campaign of story is to have a random assortment of missions (games) meaning each story will never be the same again. In this instance our ship's crew were sent to retrieve a missing ship, so we had a space combat mission, followed by a 'terrestrial' (on foot anyway) Investigation mission. Next time however it could be a Space Subterfuge mission followed by a Terrestrial Combat mission. The limits are almost endless.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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