The Diary of Jonathan Gimble
Congratulations on your graduation from Basic training! Our hopes and prayers
go with you as you sail into the unknown as you've always desired. Do well for us, and for all the Earth. Write in this journal so that after the War we can sit back and peruse it as part of family history, heck, you might even surpass your old grandfather Joseph in war stories! We will miss you son. Shoot straight and never let em' make you lose your nerve! And try and remember to bring the old man some souvenirs, ok?
Our love goes with you,
Mom and Dad
August 13, 2126
Aug. 13, 2126
Sitting in the back of a cargo plane, enroute to my next assignment. Nothing else to do but wonder what it'll be like. Rudy's here next to me, he and I are both going to intercept school. Just a little side info for those of you not in the know, that's where they teach us newbies how to fire the Point Defense Lasers on the big Cruisers they're sending up into orbit. But for now the turbulence in this crate is killing me! Rudy's green in the face and looks a bit ill. Yup, there he goes running off to the latrine. Not like our last meal at Paragon Military Academy was anything worth keeping down in the first place. Good of Mom and Dad to nab me this journal. I think it'll be nice to have when I finally go active duty. Damn, but these things are bumpy...you'd have thought they'd have had some kind of technological breakthrough on transport planes in 250 years. Feels like I'm strapped to the tail of the Wright Flyer. Rudy's back now, looks a little less pale. Meatloaf is hell.
Ah well, think I'll nod off for a bit. Just an hour out of Houston now.
This place is enormous. Situated next to the old NASA center, they still have the old Saturn V rocket/relics on display and we can see them from our quarters. Rooms are a bit sparse but then again I'm not an officer, just an enlisted guy. Anyways, we won't be here but two weeks. Apparently something's gearing up and they need us trained faster than the usual month, so we can expect 16 hour days instead of the normal 8 hour ones that were standard before. Guess the Hierarchy is making moves someplace. So tomorrow formal training begins at 0600. Damn I hate waking up early. Rudy is irritatingly cheerful in the mornings.
I'm exhausted. First a 3 mile dry run before breakfast, the latter consisting of powdered eggs and what I think was synth-bacon. I'd rather not dwell on it. Then came training. It's too difficult to describe for my tired brain, but ultimately my entire console consists of about 10 buttons, 20 displays, and a large trackball. Anything from power settings to weapons charge, the trigger (which is a surprisingly uninspiring small red toggle switch), we learned it. Simulated computer targets were shot out and we were instructed to nab as many as we could. I seem to be a natural at it although the rest of the class were told they were "marginal" by the instructor. He's a budding serial killer. Anyways it's not that hard, just move the trackball target over incoming projectiles and hit the uninspiring red switch and zap, it's gone. Of course hitting another ship is an entirely different matter. It's really easy to hit a big, slow moving target than a small fast moving one like a missile, and Instructor Psycho-tron told us that with practice we could even hit selected portions of an enemy ship, disable prime components, like turrets and the like. I don't know how long this schedule is going to keep up
Today was our first trip to the anti-gravity chamber. I thought it was fun until the nausea hit. Half of us tossed our cookies after 20 minutes but Instructor Loose Cannon told us this was normal and that in time we'd get as used to this as we would walking in normal 1 G environments. Normally we have gravity on the Cruisers through some artificial gravity producing phenomenon gadget they invented several years back, but "Zero-G environments are a fact of life if you lose that, my marginal friends" our dear instructor informed us. After that it was back to target practice. Later this week, after several trips to this chamber of horrors, they're sending us up on a modified turbojet to practice live fires against towed targets and drones. And that, as our twisted leader says, "is when we'll separate the marginal from the sub-marginal."
We're in the final stages of our training here. A full 1/3rd of the class is washed out, probably getting sifted down to other jobs like administration or cooking. All that as a result of today's live fire, in which yours truly got a perfect score, something which suitably impressed Instructor Missing Fuse greatly. "You're an ugly bastard, but you've got the sharpest damned eyes I've seen in years." I guess I can take that as a compliment, although I'm fairly sure I'm better looking than he takes me to be. Oh well. Rudy barely passed the minimum scores, so he'll get a job, but whether it's on a cruiser remains to be seen. Nothing I can do about it except console the guy, kinda makes me feel insignificant really. But in two days training ends and the real adventure begins, and that's something to look foreward to!
Instructor Torque Wrench graduated us today, me with honors. One more shiny ribbon to put on the uniform. Seems like they give ya a ribbon for every little thing you do. I have the "I learned to fire the laser today" ribbon, otherwise known as the "Targetting Qualification" award. And then there's the "I didn't puke for 20 minutes in the Zero-G chamber" ribbon, aka the Zero-Gravity Operations award. Oh well, I suppose to the average woman on the street it'll look impressive enough, and that's always a plus.
Tomorrow we'll all head up to Star Control's main space base and get our assignments. I can barely hold my pen still from the excitement...
Within 20 minutes of entering the space station we were hustled into a conference room where 20 Captains and a few Admirals were standing around with folded arms surveying us. At that point some clerk type (who looked like a stiff breeze would have snapped him in two) points at each of us and assigns us to one of the grim figures in front. I was nabbed by a Capt. Roland Rogers, a very serious looking officer who lightened up only when we hopped on the transport shuttle to our Cruiser, the Resolution.
I saw Rudy off very briefly as one of the Admirals snapped him up for work on the Ceres base they set up a few years ago. I think he'll do well there but I'll sure miss his company. Still there's new faces to meet onboard my own ship and so for now Rudy, will have to meet up with ya later old friend. Docking with the ship now...not sure what's going to happen. Guess I'll find out here soon.
Life on board a Cruiser isn't as glorious as you might think. For one the space is really a lot more cramped than the vids would have you believe. How they fit 18 people in this thing is beyond me. So the crew layout is as follows: The Captain, the XO, the navigator, two gunners, myself being the PDL operator, a Communications officer, 1 Science officer, 6 Marines, and 3 engineers, along with a ship's doctor to boot. It's really a tight squeeze. In cases where we're shorthanded, some of us will have to pull double duty. For instance I had some first aid training so in a pinch I can assist the doctor as an aide. The 6 Marines, who seem to be here for boarding purposes and repelling prospective boarders, double duty as the ship's cook/KP crew. But I guess that can be expected as we don't have the room to fit anymore personnel in here.
Doctor Fisker is an older lady, about 45 or so with short blonde hair. She seems amiable and has informed me this is her third trip out. Her first two were uneventful long range patrols along the Ilwrath frontier. She speculates though that this one will be different as we're heading out towards Androsynth space this trip. The clones hold a helluva grudge against us still and like to demonstrate this by mutilating Cruisers on sight. Not on my watch.
Provisions are all stored and we're mission ready. It'll be a "standard" patrol mission involving the Resolution, another Cruiser, the Destroyer, and two Shofixti Scouts. The Scouts pulled alongside us today and I got a good first look at my first non-human Alliance members. They're basically big rodents...don't know how else to put it. Something of a cross between a rat and a wolverine, although the Shofixti I talked to seemed to be more menacing than any wolverine I've heard of. Hiryu, so he called himself, has three mistresses, something he's rather proud of, and something close to 20 children. And according to our database he's just coming of adult age! My hat's off to the reproductive power of our Shofixti friends. Thier ships, the Kondo and the Shinano, aren't as new as ours and you can tell by the numerous patches on the sides. We went through enough basic Ship ID class for me to readily identify the "Glory Device" strapped underneath the fuselage. It's a several meter long cylindrical object that looks more like an old torpedo than anything else. Hiryu tells me they've been unlucky not to be able to have used thiers (Kondo's malfunctioned during thier last scrap with an Umgah Drone) but thier main gun gets a lot of overtime. I don't know how to express how much more secure I feel with these guys travelling with us. If thier personal manner is anything to guage them by, then thier combat skills must be a sight to see. I wish them God speed in my heart and sincerely hope they don't have to resort to using thier device.
* * * * * * * * * * *
We were just about to get under way when a Broodhome pulled alongside us to wish us well. One or two of thier...people....I guess I should say came to our ship to offer thier best wishes to us. They're a strange organism like nothing I've ever seen or heard before. The movies just don't do them justice, that much I'll say. They have strange melodic voices, if you can call them voices, that have a soothing effect, something between the soft tinkling noise of crystal and a far off waterfall. I don't know how to explain it, but they just put you right at ease with thier presence. I considered myself predisposed as regards to the leadership of any Earthlings went unless it was one of ours, but after having met two of these crystalline allies, I would follow them wholeheartedly through the gates of Hell if it came down to it. After they left Captain Rogers ordered us out of dock and into the black, inky depths of space. I cannot explain what I'm feeling at the moment, except that I can barely contain my excitement. I hope to do my family proud, and nab a few Hierarchy slugs for them.
Patrols are long with not much to do. But I don't want to spend it all writing in this and end up using the whole thing in a month, so I've taken to writing down short entries every few days. So far the trip has been very uneventful as the most action we've seen is the occasional small meteor a few miles off in the black gloom. I've gotten to know the crew a lot better. Take for instance the two gunners, Jurgens and Halliwell. Technically there's only one gunner and that'd be Jurgens. He's a big Swedish guy who talks of nothing but hot springs which dot his home country, and of course the naked women who populate them. When we get back he's promised to take me on a few forays into his native land to examine these things first hand. Then there's Halliwell who's more or less technically the loader for the old MX missiles we use, although he can do Jurgens' job in a pinch. He's a British guy, somewhat reserved, with small aristocratic looking glasses. I would have thought that his eyesight would have restricted him from a job like his, but apparently how it works is that the Captain or XO up in the bridge targets an enemy ship and then relays a message to the gunners in the form of a large red light. When the light goes off, hit the launch button and there she goes. So apparently all that needs to be done as far as seeing goes is to be able to spot the red light. I would have thought it'd be more complex than this, but as with many things on the Resolution, it's surprisngly simple. This makes it feel more like I'm in one of those old submarines they used back in World War II almost 2 centuries ago. We carry 90 MX class missiles believe it or not, and you'd be surprised at how efficiently they save space in thier storage. They're clustered in groups of 10 in a rack sort of device. When combat comes they simply load up a rack, not unlike you would put a magazine in a gun and fire until the rack is empty. They can have the empty one unloaded and a fresh one installed in all of a minute. If I ever get a chance to see it happen I'll be sure to put in more details, since it'll be something I really want to be here to witness.
Hyperspace gets to you after a while. Red light is everywhere and there's this odd vibration, very subtle, throughout the ship that follows you wherever you go. So far nothing bad has happened to anyone because of it, but it does get tiresome after a while.
For now we're heading to the Androsynth frontier, with a short stopover at Rigel first. From there we're off to the Raynet star cluster, then to Regulus, and from there to the Caeli stars. We're looking at about a week in each. Finally when we're done at Caeli's group we'll head back home for a few weeks of R&R. If we make it, that is. Of all the enemies in the Hierarchy, there's none that everyone seems to dread more than the Androsynth, save the Ur-Quan themselves.
For now though everyone seems to try to keep themselves busy in some way or another. One of the Marines, Schuyler I think her name is, is one hell of a poker player. I've already lost more than 30 credits to her and I'm not exactly a slouch at poker myself. If cards aren't your thing there's the recreation room, which is basically a 5 by 10 ft. area with 4 chairs in it and a large plasmascreen to watch war vids on. But our collection is rather sparse, the usual titles like "Spiff's Space Marauders" or "Raid at Regulus", but since I saw them all at home a dozen times apiece I can just about recite all of them line for line now.
Sometimes I do some first aid training with Dr. Fisker to pass the time, and if I continue on like I do, she says, I'll end up a doctor myself. So sitting at my console and watching the stars and micrometeorites pass by generally passes most of my day. I have to admit I am a little homesick at the moment and I'm sure I'm not alone.
We finally dropped out of hyperspace into the Rigel system where we'll be patrolling for a week. There's a small mining colony on the second system. Ore is mined and shot up into orbit on a unique mass driver system where it's then picked up by various cargo ships and hauled back to some distant manufacturing planet. This being a smaller colony and so close to the frontier, security, while tight, isn't nearly as thick as you'd think. About 20 Shofixti Scouts, 5 Cruisers, and one or two Arilou Skiffs are here for defensive purposes in case of the random raid, but there's even more transports to evacuate the 200 or so workers on the planet in the case of a full out attack. The defensive perimeter in place around the system is surprisingly good. A belt of laser stations is placed on random objects, ranging from satellites to random stable asteroids which detect incoming ships and fire at them. But the defensive ships basically patrol the area near the planet and don't venture out beyond the defensive ring except for the occasional patrol. The current line of thinking is that we can spot anything coming in-system as it drops out of hyperspace, and ships being hard to come by as it is, are corralled closer to the planet where a solid defense can be set up in case of attack.
That's where we come in. Once every two weeks a set of ships, usually heavy on Cruisers and Scouts, pass through and patrol the outer fringes for a week or so. Then when everything is found to be all clear we're sent to another system. This of course is not the most efficient system we can use, but it's the best we can do until we get more Cruisers online. Then it'll be one fresh patrol coming in each week.
So now it's our turn to patrol for a week. Rigel, we've been told, is relatively quiet as far as raids go. Never more that a few Spathi ships come through here once every few months, and of course after firing a few shots they usually head off back to where they came. So all in all, this portion of the mission should be fairly easy.
Halfway through our patrol. You can see the remains of skirmishes past if you look hard. Specks of metal and debris dot the space lanes just outside the defensive ring, and the occasional recognizable part of a ship can be seen floating aimlessley through the asteroid belt. I spotted the remains of an old Cruiser proton booster meandering through the belt before it dropped out of sight behind a larger asteroid. Everyone is on a higher state of alert mentally than they were enroute here. But thus far nothing really to be seen other than the occasional inbound/outbound cargo hauler.
During my down time today I went back to see some of the other portions of the ship that I've never really bothered to goto before. The engineers names are Belden, Ketch, and Chen, and they basically work out of a section that's the size of your average auto garage. Small and filled with all manner of tools, for the most part they watch the small plasmascreen TV back in thier compartment or play cards, much like anyone else on the ship. Chen is the studious one as she reads technical schematics in her spare time with the same interest I would give a steak dinner after a week without food. From the inner city of Beijing, she tends to be shy and quiet, but very friendly, although you have to be the one to initiate any kind of conversation with her to find this out. Belden and Ketch are both traditional working class hero/blue collar roughneck types who will be happy to tell you that there isn't a bolt in the bulkhead that they don't know about personally. After chatting with them briefly, the older one, Belden, opted to give me a "brief tour" of the Resolution's aft areas. I always assumed there was more fuel back there than anything else, but once again on this I was wrong.
There's a central walkway that goes back through the spine of the ship. "Walkway" is a rather generous word, you can walk but you have to do it crouched over. Dozens of access panels and side hatchways dot the walls. Belden was kind enough to stop every 10 paces or so and describe one item or another to me. "There's the port booster emergency access hatch", as he pointed to some dark access tunnel that I don't know how any human could possibly fit into. "Here's your point defense laser." I looked up and a large matrix of blue lines criss-crossed over each other and I saw a serious collection of mirrors. "This thing is a real pain in the ass to work on if it gets hit, so be careful with it", he informed me. Apparently the laser is always on, something I didn't know, and is kept in a constant recycling loop between the mirrors. When it's used in combat the beams are directed to a separate set of mirrors where the laser strength is amplified many times over and up to four beams can be shot out at incoming targets. Every few weeks the system has to be shut down so the optics can be cleaned, but it's only about 2 hours work he told me.
After my inspection of the rear areas of the ship I went back to my console with a new appreciation for my job. Small as the innards of the Resolution are, you'd be amazed at how much there is to see.
Our last day of patrol here saw our first combat action. Two Spathi Discriminators dropped out of hyperspace only a few kilometers away. I think they were more surprised to see us than we were to see them. We managed to get two missiles off at them and got a hit from one. Surveying damage on a Discriminator is a task in observation...the thing is covered in multicolored pods that jut out of the main body of the ship, making you feel like you're doing mortal combat with a water molecule rather than a warship. The missile that we hit it with snapped off one of the projections and I watched as it flew off on a geyser of sparks and flame. This was apparently all the coaxing our Spathi friends needed as they both turned tail and fled firing thier short range rear missiles as they retreated.
They were too far out of range for them to be effective and all 4 of thier missiles ran out of fuel well before they came within range of us. Before we could even give chase both ships departed back into hyperspace. How the Ur-Quan ever let these abject cowards into the Hierarchy I'll never know. Apparently this is one of the "rare" encounters with the Hierarchy that we have here, so the members of the defense force tell us. Tomorrow morning we're jumping back into hyperspace headed for the Raynet cluster. This takes us right along the Androsynth border, and the silence on the ship is almost deafening because everyone knows it.
Three days out of Raynet. More of the sickening red glare creeping into every conceivable space in the ship. It's bad enough being on the bridge where there's open windows into space. Everyone's nerves are edgy as we pull ever closer to our mortal enemies home turf. Not really thier home turf, but on the outskirts of it. But the Raynet-Regulus corridor is where clone activity is the highest. The Shofixti don't seem to be afraid however...I dare say if there were 20 Dreadnoughts waiting for us to drop out of hyperspace, they'd charge in that much faster. Hiryu and I have taken to playing a strange form of Shofixti chess over the squadron interface (ships in close proximity on patrols like these set up a short range 'network' so to speak to collate data and instantly share one ship's situation or observations with the rest), although hyperspace tends to slow it down somewhat. In the Shofixti version there's one King and 4 Queens. This I guess represents thier desire for multiple mates. To make matters more interesting thier version of the Rook can institute a one time "glory" charge where they can zip in any direction on the board and instantly destroy whatever piece they wish, so long as there is a clear line of sight. I guess this is thier Scout's representation on the board. It gets even more interesting...while each side starts out with the same number of Pawns, every 3 turns the King selects one of the 4 Queens and can produce a new pawn to be placed on the starting row. Needless to say this version takes a lot of getting used to. If you don't take pieces as quickly as possible, the opposing player has a tendency to 'repopulate' very quickly and then basically overpower your pieces with sheer numbers. I have yet to win a match, being more of a defensive player, so as usual Hiryu tends to send all his Pawns (usually about 15) screaming at me and there's simply no stopping them. Hmmm..maybe I should introduce him to poker with that marine, Schuyler. No, I think he'd like that too much.
Today we dropped into the Raynet system. There's 3 stars that make up this cluster and we'll spend 2 days apiece patrolling them. We have no mining colonies or bases out this far so for now we're completely on our own. For the record we won't have any official "cover" from any allies so to speak until well after Regulus on our way to the Caeli stars, when the Yehat will be able to give us patrol support. Until then, we're very much alone out here.
Several planets can be seen orbiting this first star, although prior survey teams have made initial estimates and observations about them, no in-depth studies have been attempted due to the Androsynth being so close. For that matter though I guess the Androsynth haven't had much of a chance to do so either since we send frequent patrols through here as well.
While halfway through the second system, the Science officer, Ens. Zimmerman, got strange readings off of one of the inner planets. Capt. Rogers seemed a little reluctant to respond to it, but the forging forth of the Shofixti towards the planet urged him into following. The Destroyer followed closely behind us as we trailed behind the Scouts towards the small world. We all gathered our ships together in one of the Lagrange points between the planet and it's moon and attempted to make more intensive scans of whatever our observant Science officer had noticed when he received coordinates from the main computer. Some hushed whispering between he, Capt. Rogers and Lt. Chambers (the XO) ensued with all of them looking rather excited. Shortly after the Captain ordered the Marines, an engineer and the science officer go down on a shuttle to investigate. I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that whatever it was, it was good.
And oh, how right I was! In about 3 hours they all come back up lugging along some Precursor artifacts, one of which Belden (the engineer who went along) says can most certainly be used to make the Resolution faster by twice the rate...this is most certainly a fantastic boon to us because our class of ship suffers it's major weakness in the fact that it is much slower than almost all the Hierarchy vessels we're likely to meet. In addition an artifact was picked up and sent over to the Destroyer that will increase it's fire rate, another weakness shared by our Cruisers. The Shofixti seemed content with a few trinkets they picked up on the surface, which they're treating as magical talismans more than anything else. I don't know what it is that Hiryu has around his neck as a necklace, but it's definitely impressive looking. At any rate, we're back under way now and onto the last star in the Raynet cluster. The spirits of everyone on board is surprisingly good. And I have to admit it is a rush when we go to full thrust to feel the Resolution all but leap out from under us with the added thrust!
Where to start I don't know...this was a grim day for us. It started out plainly enough, just watching the stars go by through my PDL monitor when I happened to notice a small, flickering, pinkish star in the distance. As I watched with interest, wondering if I was viewing a comet or some strange variable star, it began to grow, and I discerned that it was no star because it was closing with us rather than growing. And then before I could even hit the attack klaxon it was upon us. The Destroyer reacted a split second faster than we did and managed to ping the Androsynth Guardian twice with it's PDL as it made it's first pass through our formation in it's "Blazer" form. Pink/purple light screams from it and it hurts to look at for too long. It's stubby ball shaped body moved through at such a speed that the vortex it left in our midst made the Shinano spiral for a few seconds after.
They told us that these things were tough to fight, but I had no idea how much so. They move so fast and can turn on the proverbial dime that within 5 seconds of it shooting through our formation it was turned back around and in our midst again. It made it's way unerringly for the Destroyer and even as the latter turned to face the threat it was too late. The Destroyer managed to get off a single missile before it was hit, the old MX impacting squarely on the Guardian's nose. But this didn't make the least bit of difference as the Blazer hit the Cruiser dead amidships, snapping it in two and sending it's ends spinning in different directions on jets of sparks and hydrogen fuel. So quickly it happened that never a word was transmitted from the doomed ship. Shinano was quicker to respond and fired it's thrusters making full bore at the enemy vessel. Before I could comprehend in time what thier intentions were, the small Scout had already closed with the Androsynth and while firing it's small gun at the clone ship repeatedly it pulled right above it and detonated in a spectacular corona of fire and debris.
Above all the confusion and horror, the one thing that hit me more than anything else was bloodlust for this thing's death. And Fortune finally smiled upon us, for either as a result of the Shofixti Scout's kamikaze attack, or perhaps that it had just run out of fuel, the Blazer before us returned to it's natural Guardian state. And with the Resolution and the Kondo closing at top speed, the few acid bubbles that it fired at us were for naught. Two missiles from us and a well placed shot from the Kondo decimated the Androsynth. It was with joy and relief that we watched the silver-ringed hull of the bastard ship explode into a million glittering pieces of debris. We narrowly avoided the acid bubbles as we shot through the flotsam, and I managed to bag 2 before we had cleared the area.
I understand now the reports of "clone fever" that we hear about, Cruiser captains firing missiles at random asteroids because they hallucinated an oncoming Androsynth. The crews of the Shinano and Destroyer I didn't know too well, and perhaps that is for the best. There is a sense of fear and grief that hover over us now, and the only thing I'm certain of is that if we meet another cloner ship that I will react faster than I did this time.
The losses of the Destroyer and the Shinano are a firm and very real memory for us, and as we edge ever closer to Regulus we are edgier than ever before. Regulus is a lone, blue star sitting on a shared border of sorts between the VUX and the Androsynth. We can expect to see one or both races in combat within the next two weeks before we finally pull back to friendlier sectors of space. The VUX, according to our database, are mono-ocular, snout faced creatures who hold a vendetta against us second only to the Androsynth. The story of Capt. Rand and the Miwok and Earth's first encounter with the VUX is legendary, until you realize the people involved were very real. Most don't know that Capt. Rand is still alive and still a Captain, although he no longer commands the Miwok. From everything I've been told he was placed as a minor starbase commander in some obscure backwater planet where nothing ever happens. I guess they wanted his leadership skills but not his interpersonal ones. I think the day may be coming though when they'll call him once more into active duty in the fleet again, though. There's just too few qualified Cruiser captains out there and I have a feeling that things will only get worse in that way as the years come.
But for now we do much as we did before. Pass the time, study, read, watch war vids in the rec room. Hiryu and I spend more time than before playing Shofixti chess and I'm apparently getting better at it since I managed to place his King in check once or twice. But still he wins every game. I hope that he makes it through as we do. We're becoming fast friends and I hope to invite him home one day and show him the wonders of Earth.
The Communications officer, Witt, picked up a distress beacon on the hyperwave channels today. According to the data it's coming from an Alliance ship, type unknown, about a day's hyperspace from us. We're going to investigate it. Holstered on my side is my standard issue Fuse-Teck laser pistol, and though it wouldn't have any effect on the outcome of previous engagements like what we've had, it makes me feel much better feeling the weight of it there. The innards of the thing are beyond my understanding, but what I do know is that it fires 50 shots at variable strength settings, and has 2 replacement "clips", which are basically fresh power packs that it draws it's energy off of.
Then of course we have the usual survival knife, something that's been issued to every soldier for the past 4 centuries. The technology for knives is little changed as evidenced by my knife, which is basically a 5 inch long teflon-coated blade with a cutting edge on one side and a saw-tooth edge on the other. There are the ubiquitous blood-grooves that make it easier to retrieve your blade from the body of the victim. These are things I'm not anxious to find out about and the training they gave us with them are minimal at best.
At any rate, our course has been slightly changed to make for the beacon on whatever Alliance ship is transmitting it. There's an unusual amount of static in the code leading us to believe that either the ship is adrift in a heavily asteroid-populated area or that someone or something is interfering partially with it's transmission. Needless to say we're all very alert and I spend all my waking hours at my console now.
Our mystery ship, who's signal we've been homing in on, was a derelict Syreen Penetrator. We dropped out of hyperspace a good distance from her, just to make sure that we wouldn't stumble inadvertantly into an ambush. She was adrift, as was previously hypothesized by Ensign Zimmerman, in a large spread of asteroids, hence the less than perfect beacon transmissions we've been receiving from her. Still on full alert, both we and the Kondo made our way to the Penetrator cautiously and scanning the asteroids on both sides as we approached. After pulling to within 2 kilometers, Zimmerman got his first good scan of the damaged vessel. This was almost unnecessary as the gaping hole in it's side was plainly visible to all of us. Pieces of the shattered hull still hung around the vessel's wound in the zero-gravity conditions.
Witt asked if it was possible that she'd had a collision with an asteroid, but Capt. Rogers was quick to point out that the area around the damage was charred, a big indication of a mauling by a weapon. It was then decided that the XO, Lt. Chambers, should lead a boarding party over to see if there were any survivors. The chances of this were slim but possible according to Zimmerman, who allowed a simple, "It's worth a look". And so the shuttle went over with Lt. Chambers, Dr. Fisker and 3 Marines. After what seemed an eternity but was actually 20 minutes (with all of us scanning each and every asteroid nervously in case of an ambush), the dingy returned and with much excitement they hustled back in through the airlock bearing a blue-skinned, scantily clad survivor from the ship. The brief flash I had of her inert form passing through was enough to make my brain spin at amazing speeds. Of course we've all heard about the inexorable draw that Syreen females have on males of our race (or any other I would imagine), but nothing prepared me for it. Every male in the ship wanted to leave his post to go and personally see the newcomer. So perhaps what happened next was considered more of good timing than a bad situation.
With an effort I resumed concentration on the surrounding asteroids and as my mind wandered, thinking more and more of the Syreen casualty in the med bay, I spotted by chance several green objects slowly making thier way through the closest asteroids towards us. I knew what they were instantly and my training acted faster than my groggy mind did as I hit the alarm klaxon. The limpet mines, which is what they were, were very close and I knew by instinct that I had enough time to kill the closest ones, and began my effort in earnest, intercepting each with accuracy I didn't know I had. Capt. Rogers, who seemed to be the only other one paying attention, immediately gunned the engines, and we burst forward at an incredible speed, throwing several crewmembers to the floor simultaneously.
After several confusing moments, we managed to spot the bulbuous snout of a VUX Intruder protruding around the edge of a bowling pin shaped asteroid. What followed happened so quickly that it makes my head spin to recall it. With most of the crew back at thier assigned places we quickly fired off 2 shots at the Intruder, watching one detonate on it's port nacelle and the other exploding on the asteroid next to it. The resulting asteroid's explosion buffeted the VUX with inumerable shards of iron, nickel and rock, making it waver a bit as it's pilot adjusted for the force of an MX missile hit and the pelting of numerous boulder size rocks. Kondo, homing in on the temporarily stunned VUX, unleashed several well placed shots at the already damaged port side and managed to snap it off like a brittle twig, which sent the Intruder spiraling out of control into another asteroid.
Fighting in an asteroid belt can be likened to a knife-fight. It is by method and necessity a close-up and nasty type of engagement, and no matter the amount of care that goes into flying, both parties are going to get bloodied. I had my work cut out for me as we bolted through dozens of rocks, picking off the ones that posed the most threat in colliding with us. But as good as I did, one managed to graze our rear starboard engine. We managed to get another missile off at the limping Intruder however and saw it detonate on the bridge of the enemy vessel. What resulted can only be described as the instant snuffing out of life on the VUX ship as it simply stopped. Kondo flew in and destroyed what was left of it with several quick shots on her main gun. It was frightening to realize how disasterously the whole ordeal could have turned out to be, but we're alive and just that makes us feel much better.
Our ability to hyperspace is hampered by our damaged engine and all three engineers have effected repairs on it. Still it will take a few days to repair and as such we've pulled to the fringes of the asteroid belt and several of the crew are out in zero-g suits pushing the engine back into it's original shape. Two armed guards are in front of the med-bay, fending off prospective male visitors among the crew, Schuyler and the other female Marine, Schultz. They're none too kind about it, considering it babysitting rather than guarding. I think I detect a whiff of jealousy in thier manner and tone, for as nice looking as both Schuyler and Schulz are, they've probably never gotten the attention that our lone Syreen survivor seems to be getting. Jurgens especially makes frequent forays down to the med-bay to get admittance, but has been thus far unsuccessful. The guy has a one track mind.
Being the quasi-assistant doctor's aide, it was only a matter of time before I was called in to relieve Dr. Fisker so she could grab a few hours of sleep. Both the Marines eyed me with unusual sterness as they admitted me into the med-bay to relieve the doctor. The med-bay has two beds, or rather cots. They're hinged so that they can be folded up into the bulkhead to make space in certain conditions. Both however were down and the privacy curtain was around the far bed, for obvious reasons. Dr. Fisker looked fatigued but managed a knowing smile at me as I entered, correctly assessing that I was the luckiest man on the ship to be allowed in here. She sat down with me and basically said that our patient was unconscious at the moment, although for a few brief moments she would occasionally awaken, but only long enough to ask where she was and to give her name. "Which is Selyne," reported Dr. Fisker looking groggily at her clipboard. "Aged 21, with multiple lacerations to the lower abdomen and minor burns on the right arm. It's amazing she actually survived, all things considered."
My only job, I was informed, was to replace her IV gear every 3 hours, but since I was to be here only 5 hours, I would only have to do this once. With a pat on the shoulder the good doctor went to give her latest update on the patient to Captain Rogers (the only other male allowed inside the med-bay) and left me to my own devices.
There are things in this world which surpass being classified as simple temptation or desire, and as I valiantly fought to gain control of my senses I knew I couldn't hold out for long. So, lightly sitting up from the med-console I purposed to go over and check the IV bag on the patient, knowing full well that Dr. Fisker had replaced it with a fresh one just before she left. I could no more have stopped myself from seeing her as the sun could stop itself from shining. Trembling all over, I walked almost drunkenly over and pulled back the curtain surrounding the Syreen's cot...and saw her.
I thought I knew what beauty was. I've seen the crimsons and vermillions of nebula from afar, the rising of the sun out of misty clouds over a fog-shrouded countryside. I've seen the terrible beauty of exploding ships in zero-gravity where the fire floats along, lapping debris as it goes. But nothing compared to her...everything I've ever seen or witnessed paled in comparison next to her. I found I couldn't move, standing there stock still as if rooted to the floor in some kind of strange paralysis. Her hair is auburn, with long wavy locks that grow just below her shoulders. Soft blue skin, which I would have found odd looking on any female, seems to become her and make her beauty that much more staggering...I can barely describe it.
I managed to shake myself out of whatever trance I had gone into only to realize she was beginning to regain consciousness, and as she looked up at me she smiled a smile at me that a man would die 100 deaths to experience once. My brain on autopilot, I remember smiling back, still in a daze, and without knowing how or why, taking her hand and sitting down quietly next to her. She squeezed my hand in reply, smiled again, and slowly her eyelids dropped and she went to sleep again.
Somehow I remembered to get up and change her IV on schedule, but I can't remember being anywhere but by Selyne's side the entire time I was there. Even when Dr. Fisker returned several hours later I didn't even notice it until she shook my shoulder softly and asked if everything was ok. Trying to act "normally", I replied that all was well, the patient only awoke once for a few moments, but said nothing before lapsing back into sleep. She grinned to herself, and shaking her head told me that I might be needed again before too long, but not for a day or two, that she would pick a female to do my job but for the fact that I was the only medically qualified person on board other than herself. I objected and let slip that I was extremely happy to help in any way I could, at which she replied, "I bet." Everything else today is a haze. I remember sitting at my console, but seeing much in it. I can't recall eating anything since, but then again I'm just not hungry. I cannot sleep, but I don't feel tired anyway. My skin is in goosebumps and my heart is hammering in my chest. And all I can think about is Seylne and the next opportunity just to see her...what in God's green Earth is wrong with me?