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Drop Out

This part originally appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Part 27

The following day, as the group prepared to enter the Burr through the Waffles’ portside bridge airlock again, Captain Fyyg stood at the head of the line, offering each member a shot, in turn, of the prized Newton & McCenna single-malt Scotch.

If purchased today, the 20 year old Scotch would go for a hundred Creds a shot. Guessing the bottle was between something like forty and sixty years old, made figuring the cost of such a shot, if it were to be decided on, problematic.

Everyone accepted and drank down their shot, except Dave Trujillo, of course, who instead had a couple of smokes.

This time the group brought a flight of small, anti-grav Commobots along to provide improved communications between the Burr and the Waffles, allowing feeds from multiple sources instead of merely the POV from the Vacc Suits, Combat Suits and Combat Armor the crew wore.

Following directions from Second Officer Frielander, this time, instead of stopping at the Fuel & Quarters Deck like their last excursion, they climbed one deck beyond that, to the Burr’s Dorsal Weapon Deck, where the armored hulk had a pair of weapons mounted; one to port and the other to starboard, at each end of a long, wide hallway that went across the top of the craft.

According to Ilsa, who was reading the deckplans by comm to the Waffles, the chances were good that a laser turret with as many as eight guns was there at port, and at the other end, possibly a double or triple weapon mount inside a barbette. Kalifra Donaldson, who’d served on a very similar IN ship, agreed with the Second Officer’s projections.

On gaining access to the deck, the Waffles’ group found three vacc-suited bodies lying on the deck, burnt to death, and lying within a few meters of the hatch; each likely the work of the Warbot.

The long wall running along each side of the hallway had storage racks for various melee weapons and firearms; most still fully loaded.

Down the hallway to starboard, amidships, was a heavy blast door.

Cut off from the starboard weapon mount, Milo commed, “So what do you want us to do now, Number Two?” as he was taking a poignard from the weapon racks for himself, and passing one to Kalifra as well. At this point several others took weapons from the wall mounts.

“Until we get the blast shield raised,” replied Ilsa, “we can check out the portside weapon mount pretty easily, Milo.”

Entering the portside weapon station, it was indeed a laser turret—a big one, with status indicating that three of its eight weapons had been damaged, while its ability to maneuver was seemingly unimpaired.

Kalifra, familiar with Naval technology and hardware, felt it likely that the weapon could be worked free for installation on the Waffles.

Unable to go past the Weapons Deck, the Roosters put their heavy weapons away, and Dave and the rest of the roustabouts spent the rest of the day sorting and moving supplies from Burr’s galley over to the Waffles, including a large table, several chairs, and the Burr’s heavy pool table, with its red felt and Latin motto, ‘Habitant non iugo calumnia Imperial’.

The next day the Black Gang descended to the Burr’s bottom deck—Engineering—to poke around; each member of the team wearing a Combat Suit or pressure suit; each sealed, maneuvering in sharp-edged vacuum; several heavy cutters and Haligan Tools divided among them.

Powering up the emergency lights, it was apparent that one of the three Garabaldi-Singhs had taken a pretty bad hit, and the Casimir Sublights had been ruined entirely. Four desiccated bodies lay in various places on the deck, one entirely lacking a head, though it still sat at the command station.

“Poor bastard!” Gibby said, placing a foot on the corpse in the chair and giving a heave, knocking it to the deck, so he could sit down and check Engineering’s Status Boards.

After most anything of value had been stripped from its galley, Chef Degrasse and his apprentice decided to go over things one more time to locate any serving pieces or cookware that’d been missed first go round; the cooking-related swag being packed into the bottom of the Chef’s Thirty Year Bag, with Mary carrying the overflow: a large, silver, laser-etched ice bucket; the tongs wedged into one of her tight back pockets.

Later, Gibby sat on the edge of Captain Fyyg’s large desk, discussing the situation in Engineering aboard the Burr.

“…completely smashed, Captain,” the Engineer continued, sipping a shot of Newton & McCenna, “We could break it down for spares, I guess.”

“I agree,” said Fyyg, sipping his shot. “It just seems a dreadful waste, Gibraltar. The Transition Drive just sitting there, undamaged, yet too large to move into our little Waffles. And pretty much the same for those three reactors!” The Captain finished his drink, “Damn! I was just hoping we could’ve either installed the equipment in the Waffles, or worked it in whole as cargo.”

Rubbing his jaw, Gibraltar came to a conclusion, “We could always part out the Transition Drive and reactors from the Burr. Use her for spares. Hellfire, we could even sell off some pieces-as-needed to other ships, boss.”

“Aye,” Fyyg agreed. “You and your men take the rest of the day off. You’ll be going back into Burr’s Engineering section again tomorrow, 0600 hours.”

The following day, within a few minutes of 0600 hours, the Captain insisted help was needed by the Black Gang, and ordered all non-essential personnel to fall out and help down in Burr’s airless, floodlit Engineering deck—taking the salvageable bits from the ruined Maneuver drive, the damaged Plant and the pristine Transit drive, the crew muscling loads back, or using sleds found in Burr to help move the heavy loads over to the Waffles. This work regimen went on for a week and a half.

The next week found the crew working on the Burr’s heavy laser turret, removing the five undamaged weapons from their mounts, and moving them over to the Waffles’ cargo hold for storage until an empty turret might be found and maneuvered into place.

On the Waffles, a sumptuous meal had been prepared by Chef Degrasse, his assistant, Li’l Mary, and several sets of additional helping hands, to celebrate what the Captain assured them was a successful salvage operation; everyone was waiting for Tam, Brodie, and Salome to return from the Burr so they could all eat in the Crew Lounge.

The trio had only recently suited up, exited the Starboard Bridge airlock, and trudged over the Burr’s ancient surface, down toward the Engineering Deck in an effort to open a vehicle bay from the outside. Using a heavy cutter, directional explosives, and heavy pry bar, exterior access to the hatch was gained fairly rapidly. Once the hatch was opened, getting into the armed gig was as easy as pie, and Brodie smoothly slid the gig out into space; taking a battering before entering the Waffles’ empty vehicle bay some twenty minutes later.

The food and drink proved excellent, and Salome’s red beans and rice were particularly well received.

After the Waffles had spent eleven days as a lamprey to the Burr, Captain Fyyg decided it was about time to disengage from the wreck, reel in the boarding pikes and airlock, and move off.

As the battered merchanter Chicken and Waffles pulled away the last of its grapples, the craft rose slowly from the protective mass of the Aaron Burr into the the field of high speed debris under the control of ‘Professor’ Nergal Hopps, who had grown up mining asteroids, and was a deft hand at maneuvering and jinking a starship in tight quarters, amongst speeding objects.

Catching only the occasional THUD or scraping as the ship maneuvered, things were going pretty well, until the Waffles was slammed head-on at the forward view screen by a twisted, frozen body in an old fashioned Imperial Marine dress uniform, missing the left arm at the elbow, the cutlass, and her horse-hair crested helmet.

“Get that body free of our ship, Number Two!” Fyyg said to his Second Officer.

Sitting in one of the bridge chairs, she manipulated a pair of grappling arms until she’d managed to grasp the corpse by the right thigh and pulled it free of the Waffles.

“Obstruction away, Captain,” Ilsa replied, as the woman’s body spun away in a slow, clockwise motion. Ilsa watched for a moment or two until the unfortunate body was caught in the back by a large piece of shrapnel, and split, shoulder to knee.

Stepping close to the Captain, Number Two whispered, “This is a bad omen,” as the ‘Professor’ avoided a fast-moving debris field.

Maneuvering through the shrapnel fields took some concentration and doing, and once one pilot had reached his limit, the other pilot took his place. Once the second shift pilot had reached his limit, the first pilot had the stick again. Then the second. Then the Auto-Pilot program took over.

If at any time any of the pilots were having a particularly rough time maneuvering through the field, a large chunk of some manner of flotsam would be found to grapple with, and the Waffles would catch a ride for the duration, cutting free once the maneuvering was easier, or they approached the Outsystem Transition Point.

As the Waffles approached the Outsystem Transition Point, what Brodie thought a large hunk of debris rotated into their path and all three of its turrets—lasers, missiles, and fusion guns—focused on the little merchanter.

“Oh shit!” Captain Fyyg said.

“Unidentified ship,” the warship began, in accentless Anglic. “This is IN Corvette Humphreys. You have been found in violation of Imperial Law Section XXVI AFL90767765TY-G007-0 Violation of Restricted Space; Section XXVI AFL9076744TY-G057-2 Desecration of Artifacts Within Restricted Space, and Section XXVI AFL606623428TY-G757-7 Theft of Government Property. Stand down and prepare to be boarded.”

Suddenly rattling at a gut-busting nine Gs, the Waffles rocketed to reach a safe point for engaging the Transition Drive; the Humphreys in close pursuit.

As the Waffles tore ahead, the signal for safe distance blared and the Garabaldi-Singhs poured all eighteen hundred seventy two megawatts down the throat of the Transition Drive, as the craft barreled ahead, straight into the massive hulk of an ancient ruin, and vanishing into Transitional Space the instant before impact.