Location: CWS Hoplite, Rogue Island System, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Eve sprinted through the door a moment before it violently clanged shut. “That’s everyone I could grab.” She reported as she dropped the two spacers she was carrying over her shoulder.
“Chief, how many were assigned to the flight deck?” SGM Queen was standing next to a Chief Petty Officer with blood on his face and his arm cradled to his chest.
“Assigned spacers, NCOs, and OIC were three hundred and twelve, but that doesn’t count any of the flight crews or anyone else who could be down here for a multitude of reasons.” The CPO grimaced as CWS Hoplite bucked angrily beneath them.
“What’s our count?” The SGM likely already knew the answer, but he wanted a second opinion.
“I’ve got two-twenty-nine in a variety of statuses on STRATNET.” Eve answered. “That isn’t counting the twelve we just grabbed.”
A dozen bodies were on the deck around the two Rangers. They were red on STRATNET, but Eve could see their chests rising and falling. Some of those breaths were shallow, and she doubted the spacers would even make it to sick bay, but she’d done everything she could to save them.
“Dear god.” The CPO muttered as he looked behind the Eve and the SGM.
An armorplast window stood between the three soldiers and a rapidly deteriorating flight deck. A gaping hole had been ripped in the side of the ship. There were black scorch marks from the explosion visible throughout the giant space, and remnants of the fire suppressing foam coated everything. Burnt husks of Spyders littered the area – but not for long.
Despite her injuries, Hoplite had made the jump to Alcubierre and now had a whole new set of problems. Containment was their biggest issue now. Eve couldn’t see the psychedelic nature of an Alcubierre Bubble tearing through space-time beyond the battleship’s shattered hull, but it’s effects inside the hanger bay were noticeable. Those same burned out remains of assault shuttles were being pulled across the flight deck. They couldn’t hear the screeching of metal against metal, but it was still there. Eve watched as the cockpit of a mostly destroyed Spyder got pulled closer and closer toward the large hole before finally getting sucked out into oblivion.
“We need to go.” The CPO stated as the armorplast began to rattle in its frame.
“Good idea.” The SGM and Eve each grabbed four spacers – two over each shoulder and two under each arm, and ran for the next compartment.
The honeycomb design of modern Commonwealth ships was designed just for this type of incident. The ship would automatically seal sections of itself off to maintain its integrity. It would sacrifice the few to save the many.
The CPO helped where he could. He threw one spacer over his good shoulder and followed much more slowly. “Get the last three and I’ll…” the chief was cut off as the thick door separating him and the two Rangers violently snapped shut.
“No!” Eve jumped back toward the door and looked for a way to open it, but there were no grooves to get her finger into, and the entry pad next to the door blinked red every time she tried to scan her way in.
“He’s gone, Berg.” The SGM grabbed her shoulder and spun her around, which was no easy feat in LACS. “Let him go, we’ve got more shit piling up.”
Since there was really nothing Eve or the SGM’s Ranger training could do about the current clusterfuck, they’d been ordered to assist with damage control. The flight deck hadn’t been their first stop.
“We need to get to E deck now!” he grabbed her gauntleted forearm and pulled.
She followed, still seeing the haunted look on the CPO’s face as Hoplite’s internal damage control software deemed him expendable. She made sure to put a medical beacon in STRATNET for the eight spacers they were able to save, and then tried to force it out of her mind.
<Today was a hell of a day to pop my cherry.> Not only had someone tried to kill her in anger, but she’d killed, and seen more death than she imagined possible in the last twelve hours.
She followed the SGM through crowded, smoke-filled corridors. The crews were desperately fighting to keep the battleship together, and were constantly moving people as the ship sectioned itself off. If Eve’s bad luck held, E deck was the next place they needed to get the hell out of.
The SGM and her practically shouldered people aside with no thought or care toward their rank or responsibilities. They were the two biggest people in the corridor and they were heading toward the danger. That was all that mattered right now. They avoided the grav-lift because that was just a bad idea as the lights flickered on and off from power surges. Instead, they did thing the old-fashioned way by sliding down some ladders and stairs to get to the bowels of the warship.
What they found wasn’t good.
“Go to millimeter wave.” The SGM instructed when the smoke was too dense to see through with the human eye.
Eve cycled through her settings, and saw nothing but blazing red as she passed over her infrared and onto her millimeter wave radar. That coupled with the STRATNET map of E deck told them where they needed to go.
“I’ve got casualties.” Eve practically tripped over a body within ten meters of the entry hatch.
The woman was breathing, but her skin was a fiery red hue. Dehydration was the least of this woman’s worries.
“We’ve got to keep moving, Berg.” A STRATNET icon appeared nearly a hundred meters farther into the deck. “That’s where we need to go.”
Eve still took the five seconds to toss the female spacer through the hatch for others to carry to safety before following the SGM deeper into hell. More people were down, unconscious, or straight up dead as they worked their way deeper into the depths of the ship. It was tough to pass them by, but they had their orders.
Finally, they reached another hatch and pushed it open to the sounds of men and women screaming commands as machinery screamed back at them.
“Levels are rising. Pull capacitors eight through twelve and get some liquid nitrogen in there now!” TACCOM identified a senior chief specialist was the one shouting commands.
“Is that the fucking main reactor?” Eve asked as crews hustled thick, coiled hoses from a rack on the wall toward a truly monstrous machine.
“Yep. That’s the thing that generates the energy that allows this big tin can to manipulate gravity and propel itself through space. Right now, it’s the only thing powering the Alcubierre drive.” The SGM answered patiently as they stood there waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
“Don’t we have backups?” That would be the logical design feature.
“Of course there are redundant reactors, but most of them got blown to shit or are offline. We’re lucky this one didn’t get damaged or we wouldn’t have been able to make it out of that system.”
Eve decided to shut up and count her blessings.
“You two, help with the hoses!” The SCSP yelled for them to move their asses.
The group carting the hose nearly fell over when Eve and the SGM lifted it practically by themselves, and helped them get it shoved into the slot and pumping the cooling fluid into the reactor twice as fast.
“Levels are stabilizing, but I want another hose in there pronto.”
Eve and the SGM handled that task to free up the other spacers for more important work.
“It still can’t hold out forever. We might be able to make it back to Syracuse if the universe doesn’t take another shit on us.”
It seemed like the universe had something else in mind. Less than two minutes later a loud screeching noise emanated from the reactor a second before something exploded. Even worse, was that some of flaming remains crushed the SCSP who’d been leading the recuse attempt to begin with.
“Fucking shit!” The SGM roared as he hefted the flaming wreckage off the flattened body of the SCSP. “Can’t you give us a fucking break?”
<Nope.> The screeching sound was beginning the build again and the subject matter expert on the reactor had more in common with a pancake than a human being now.
“She’s gonna blow!” someone with enough stripes yelled, and everyone began hauling ass to the door.
Thankfully for everyone Eve got there first, because Hoplite seemed to see the same danger as the mechanics. The door started to seal off the compartment, but Eve stopped it. If it was anyone beside a Ranger in V3 armor they probably would have been sliced in half by the powerful mechanism, but Eve was able to brace herself.
“Go!” she yelled to the crew who had to bend over and pass underneath her armpits. “Ahhhh!” Her naturally enhanced strength sagged after less than a minute and she had to tap into her suit’s power supply. Even then, her battery power started to drop rapidly. Hoplite’s systems had caught onto the door’s failure to close and were pouring more power into the hydraulics.
“Fucking move people!” She screamed as her elbows began to bend against her will. Right before they buckled she spun and put her back to the door. It still closed halfway, and nearly pinned her to the opposite bulkhead, but more power and the use of her legs allowed her to pry it back open.
She kept an eye on the compartment’s readings as the rest of the crew tried to escape. The radiation levels were spiking to dangerous levels. They didn’t have long.
“Go, Sergeant Major!” She yelled, forcing the NCO to crawl underneath her to pass through the door. Once he was passed she looked at the small group of spacers still waiting to get through.
Their status had already dropped from green to yellow as the radiation penetrated their bodies. For a moment, Eve was torn between what she knew needed to be done and what she wanted to do. She wanted to save all these people, but she knew they were already as good as dead.
<I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.> She’d expected to kill today, but she hadn’t expected to leave more than a dozen people to die the horrible death of radiation poisoning.
Her suit was down to less than twenty percent power when she finally wrenched herself sideways. A PFC reached out in horror and had his hand neatly sliced off as the door took advantage of her absence. The last thing Eve heard from the room was the young man’s screams.
“Let’s go, Berg. On your feet.” The SGM was one of the only few not affected by the radiation poisoning, and more than a few people were leaning on his massive metal frame for support. “You did what you had to do.”
Those words were hollow as more people sought out her LACS for support. Together, the two armored Rangers walked the dying engineers back toward the stairs up to one of the secure decks. They only made it halfway there before a giant shudder hit the ship and a wave of nausea passed through them.
“We just dropped out of Alcubierre.” The SGM stated the obvious half a second before the lights went out and gravity ceased to work. “We’ve lost all power. We’re dead in space.”
Eve could just imagine the massive one and a half kilometer warship spinning through inky blackness, lost in the pathways between the starts.
<Well, we’re fucked.> Eve couldn’t imagine how things could get any worse.