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Author Topic: The Tally - part 1  (Read 1847 times)

Callista Dalmore

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The Tally - part 1
« on: December 03, 2014, 04:36:58 AM »


The Tally

by Callista Dalmore


Pod and Planet Fiction Contest YC116 Entry
Category: Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden



“Meateorite.”

“What?  Meteorite?”

“Yes, but with an ‘a’ as in ‘meat’.”

“‘Meateorite’?”

“Yeah, catchy, huh?”

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.  Ever.”

“Well ‘Meatsicle’ was my second choice.”

“Carl.  Shut the fuck up.”

They continued down the frozen passageway, their twin helmet-mounted light beams illuminating the way.  The corridor was in surprisingly good shape, all things considered.  After having squeezed and crawled and cut their way down into here, it was nice to have some room to move.  Behind them the corridor ended abruptly in a twisted mess of internal fibreboard and trit struts.  Ahead the corridor stretched out, nice and straight, as far as their lights reached into the pitch black of the derelict ship. 

As if no time had passed, Carl continued, “I mean, I’ve run the numbers, Paul.  I have.  This ship holds approximately one hundred thousand crew, completely decked.  Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you’re right and that some podder lying in his slime knocks off a zero, that’s still fifteen thousand people, Paul.  Fifteen thousand.  On just one ship.  And how many are there out here? Around fifty?  And that’s just the fucking citadels, then you have the carriers, the dreads…” he trailed off.

“Seventy four.”  said Paul.

“What?”

“Seventy four was the final count of Titan-class ships.  Twelve  supercarriers, three hundred and fifty six Dreadnaught-class, one hundred and nine Carrier-class.  Battleship-class and down usually do not make the tally.  I know Carl, I know.” said Paul.

“But that’s just it, Paul, how is it you can rhyme off the numbers of lost ships by type?  I bet you also know the total isk lost as well, huh? Am I right?”

“Eleven trillion isk,” answered Paul, conceding the point.

“See?  What the fuck Paul. How is it that one hundred and fifty thousands bodies doesn’t make it into the news?  Huh?  Don’t death tolls matter?  Now, it’s all fucking assets and markets and cash flow…”

Suddenly, a deep rumble shook the corridor sending accumulated dust swirling into their lights.  There was no sound, of course, but the vibration rising up through their magboots was strong enough that both stopped until it subsided.

“Don’t worry, it’s normal,” said Paul.  “Gravity will be working on imploding this place for the next millennia, constantly shifting and reshifting as it accretes more mass from the other...”

“Meateorites?” interjected Carl.

“...wrecks.”  finished Paul. “And believe me, if you say ‘meatorites’ one more time, I will puncture your suit.  Now let’s keep going.”  They continued down the hall in silence, Carl taking the lead.

The hall was actually a wiremesh gangway just wide enough for them to walk in single file.  The gangway was surrounded on all sides by pipes and tubes and comm cable conduits forming a roughly cylindrical corridor.  Occasionally, the gangway would jut out perpendicularly to reach out to an airlock bulkhead protruding from the right or left. Each of these was painted in huge Amarrian numerals.  The numbers were decreasing.   

Carl raised his hand and motioned Paul to stop. “Hold up, how far do we need to go?”

“Hmm, not too far now, but...we may have a problem,” answered Paul.  “Here, look.”

Paul flicked his HUD to project and shone the schematics he’d been following onto bulkhead 314 so they both could see.  “We’re in this corridor here, joining ELS to AP-two.  From our survey scan, if we go to ‘density’ and overlay it, most of this,” he pointed to the dark blue globular zone which covered most of the upper half of the display, “is compacted to a degree where we’d need mining equipment to tunnel through.”

“Yeah, and I see it. This thing here, right?” said Carl pointing to a blob of dark blue which extended out from the main region and intersected their corridor and actually pushed right though. 

Paul nodded and answered, “yes, exactly.”

“Ok then, Mr. Professor.  How do we get through?” asked Carl.

“Well, we can’t, but we can probably go around.  Lemme just...” said Paul letting the sentence trail off as he began tapping the console sewn into his suit’s left wrist.  The projection started rotating downwards until the tunnel they were in had flattened from a line to a point.   He then started stepping the map forward, in slices of 5 meters seeing if a branch route could be found.  As he did so he thought to himself how, for all the righteous blathering he had to endure from the pirate, Carl sure had the right tools; the resolution and clarity of these images, obtained from Carl’s scanners just prior to their descent, were far beyond anything he’d seen from civilian scanners. 

“Skip ahead a little, old man,” said Carl. “The blockage was at least a good 400 meters ahead of us. And even if all that shaking is ‘normal’ and doesn’t bother you, I would rather we spend as little time as we can in this…”

“Don’t!” warned Paul in a half growl.

“...place.” finished Carl.  “I’ve salvaged more space debris than I can remember but this is the first time I’ve had to walk around inside a wreck.  It’s giving me the creeps.  Big time.” He looked around, shining his beam back up the hallway they had just come from.  “I mean, yeah, it’s not like I haven’t seen a floater before, hell, I’ve seen plenty, right?  But always from afar and from inside my ship with some nice thick invulnerability field shimmering around me.  Hell, now with those gallente gizmos…”

“Salvage drones.” murmured Paul, not looking up from what he was doing.

“Yeah, and those Pull-y what-cha’ma-call-its…”

“Tractor units.” filled in Paul, automatically.

“Yeah, with one of those purring away sucking everything in, I barely have to even look at the wrecks anymore.  I mean, I gotta keep Nancy’s eyes open and all ‘cause Lord knows those Amarr-son’s-of-whores are always showing up, am I right?” he ended, rhetorically.

“Do you mean naming your Noctis ‘Nancy’, or the fact that Amarrian’s have mothers of questionable reputation?” murmured Paul, equally rhetorically.

Carl grunted.

“Ok, just gimme a minute, do you mind if I just...:” said Paul, pointing to his visor, “it’ll go faster if I do it on my own.” 

“Yeah, no problem.” said Carl as he unholstered his rail rifle.

With a flick, the projected image disappeared from the bulkhead.  As Paul worked, several more rumbles were felt.  Carl eyed the corridor, nervously.  “Ok, got it.” said Paul.  “There’s a way through by going through Propulsion level D6.  We keep going until we reach 256.” he said.

They continued down the hall, Carl in the lead.  The bulkheads were invariably closed.  When they reached number 256, however, to their surprise, they found it slightly ajar.  Carl edged up to it and tried to peek inside but there was no room to see.  With the tip of his rifle he nudged the door open.

“Oh, God.” gasped Carl.  “What a mess...” he said, his voice wavering.  Paul came up behind him and looked into the hellish hallucination.

It was a small damage control node.  During normal operation these were manned by a crews of two or three, double that number during combat.  Comprised of technical crew and communication officers, they would respond to any emergencies in their defined sector of the ship.  For those emergencies which could be done remotely (flushing airlocks, re-routing coolant) they would take care of from here but most of the time they were directing repair teams about the ship. 

Floating all about the room, like fish in a tank, was the shattered remains of the crew. It was at first difficult to even comprehend what one was looking at; like trying to watch single snowflake in a storm.  A stationary storm.  As Paul and Carl stared at the  macabre scene certain the began to recognize the objects: a helmet, a boot, a headset.  But then they started examining the less recognizable ones, a limbless torso, a curled finger, multitudes of shiny blue spheres. 

“You seeing this?” asked Carl.

“Yeah.” answered Paul.  Although he really wish he hadn’t.  His vision started to blur.  He concentrated on his breathing and closed his eyes. 

“How do you think this happened?” wondered Carl.

“Well, for the debris, “ began Paul, “these bodies have been subjected to hard vacuum for close to a year now and at planet eight’s distance from the sun, the temperature in here, even with the plasma fires of some of those other wrecks, would be at most a couple of degrees above absolute zero.  So combine that with the constant vibrations running through the structure, and you get fractures in the crystallized organic material.  Then possibly detach during especially violent tremors.” answered Paul.

“Ok, Ill buy that, but how is it all floating around in the middle of the room?” asked Carl,  “I mean As we know from the outside, this composite wreck’s rotational velocity has already been damped out in the gravitational field.  That and since we are now somewhat below its center of gravity, free floating bodies would have first fallen towards one another and then slowly settled planetside.

“Somebody’s been here recently,” Carl said.

Paul, somewhat disturbed that Carl pieced that together, confirmed, “Yes, because of the positions of the debris field.”

“No, because there are boot tracks leading from that panel there out the other hatch,”  said Carl pointing at the mess of crushed ice on the left side of the room and the recognizable tread of magboots leading out the back of the room.

Making their way over to get a closer look, Paul noted that the bottom panels had been removed and were floating over to the left. Crouching and shining his light inside he could see circuitry, mostly standard control boards. Calling up the schematics, he noted that the nanopaste dispenser control board was missing.  Standing back up he also noticed that the panel was on the planetside of the room; whoever had accessed it would have had to have done some digging.

This all must have been much less disturbing laying quietly piled up against the wall, thought Paul as he brushed aside a rather grotesque piece from which waved a perfect curl of flowing brown hair.  Well, perhaps not that much. “Let’s get out of here,” he said.

Carl, seemingly happy to have somewhere to go other than here, eagerly crossed the room sending debris, grotesque or otherwise, spinning off in all directions.  Paul followed in his wake.

Opening the door, they found the room beyond gratefully devoid of any remains, detached or otherwise.  The room adjacent to a damage control node generally was a muster and dispatch area for work crews and therefore tended to have lockers of specialized equipment depending on the nature of the emergency they were to face.  Nothing seemed to have been disturbed in this room and as if to confirm their observations, the rusty and fading tread marks clearly went straight through to the adjoining corridor.

“You know if they would stash weapons in a DC node, Carl?” asked Paul.

“Hmm, probably not.  Grease monkeys carry their sidearms at all times and if boarding does occur, there are armory rally points separate from DC.  Besides, DC crew know fuck all about directing combat ops.  It’s just not their job, right?” said Carl and then asked, “You feeling a little defenseless?”

“Well, the thought had crossed my mind.” admitted Paul.

“Don’t worry, this baby, “ Carl said indicating his rifle, “is top of the line and I’ve been in my share of scraps.  Best thing you can do is keep your eyes sharp and your wits sharper.  Void combat isn’t like ship to ship.  It’s more like tag.  One touch, you’re out.” said Carl as he turned and headed out into the corridor beyond.

In the corridor beyond, next to a huge floor-to-ceiling “DC-256.07” painted on the wall, they saw a series of v-lifts.  These, of course, were to get the damage control teams as quickly as possible to any of the many floors under their care.  The lifts operated both actively or passively if ever power to the section had been rerouted or knocked out.  In passive mode the passenger had to supply their own minimal power to the superconductive induction rings.  Fortunately Carl had provided them both with Amarr EVA suits which had the required interfaces.  Another “plus one” for Carl, thought Paul.

“We take V2 down three levels.” said Paul to Carl’s unvoiced question.

“But the tracks lead off in this direction,” said Carl shining his lamps on the now almost completely faded tracks. 

“Well, we’re not hunters and those tracks could be months old,” said Paul as he continued towards the v-lifts.  With one last look down the hall, Carl turned and followed. 

(continued in part 2...)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2014, 11:09:54 AM by Callista Dalmore »
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