Abandoned Ship by Zaphod Beeblebrox
Steady at the helm”, came the order from Thrash, captain of the Collective Marine Scout Redemption. “Take us within two kilometers Crom, and keep watch for debris”. “Aye sir.”, came the muffled reply from the pilot’s rig. “Two kilometer’s, mark” Thrash leaned over to the Address System and gave the order for a standard scan of the debris and a Collective transport we had found. “As soon as the marines are off the ship, take us out to three kilometers and set us into orbit around the transport” he instructed. The comm erupted into life and dimly we could hear the marine squad leaders voice, in this case Jani, report that the squad had touched down with zero casualties and were starting to search the ship for survivors.

“Sensory to Bridge, sir, we cant get any readings on that ship, someone’s set up a cloak field. And the debris consists largely of unknown minerals, along with some faint traces of a hyperspace junction. Appears to be of unknown origin. We didn’t see it earlier because apparently the debris reflected our scans.” “Crom, take us out to two clicks and hold a sheer course, heading zero seven six, and hook it!” “Aye!” came the hearty reply. All around the bridge the crew were strapping into their seats, preparing for the sudden surge of power that they knew was coming. However, space decided to interject one last comment into the situation. “Sensory to Bridge, sir, the transport, its...bending? Get another read on that...it cant be rig...” The comm system gave out in a silent protest that everything was all right, in itself proving that something was indeed very wrong. “Flagston, can you get me any data on what’s going on??”, Thrash demanded. “Sorry sir, all data lists have gone blank, I cant even get the computer to tell me what time it is.” came the reply, sounding quite a bit more than scared. “Uhh...sir...you might want to see this.” Crom called. Thrash went into the center of the oval bridge and peered into the depression in the floor that severed as the main viewer, and what he saw told physics to go stick its head in a bucket. The transport...its...collapsing...” What he saw was a Collective Transport, quite a large piece of metal in itself, imploding into itself. Not only that, but all the random debris around the ship was going with it, including the C.M.S. Redemption. “Engines are go for course correction, hold tight boys!” shouted Crom as he attempted to jockey the ship around using just his eyes, since all data lists were dead. A sudden roar filled the bridge as the mighty engines of the Redemption blasted the void, attempting to put some distance between them and the now obvious Hyperspace Junction. “Sir, we’re just barely holding our own here! Not to mention we’re starting to get some hull strain! I’m going to have to switch off the engines or we might rip in half!” “Fine! Cut engines!” yelled Thrash. “Arm all defensive weapons and bring the EM shields online!”

Ten seconds after this, in a remote sector of unremarkable space, an eye searing light appeared. It was only a molecule across and a molecule wide, but the light seemed to spear off in all directions, making it appear like a new binary star had been created. Stars somehow seemed to grow closer together around the blinding light, as if they were somehow attracted to it. Suddenly the mysterious light winked out, like God had flipped a switch somewhere above, and a strange metallic shape started to blot out the stars where the light had been. Space somehow seemed to twist around the object, and the object itself seemed to be almost liquid at the point where it was growing from, and as solid as a planet where it was far away from it. Soon the shape stopped growing and the searing light reappeared, as if it had just been hidden somewhere behind the starship, which it was now revealed to be. Assorted chunks of indistinguishable material floated through the light, exactly like the ship had, but with less majesty. After a full minute, the light once again disappeared, only to be replaced by another metallic shape. It grew in the exact same pattern as the other, but it seemed somehow...smaller. If anyone had been watching this event, they would have said it was the exact same type of ship coming through the singularity, but in fact it was the C.M.S. Redemption.

“All hands, report!” shouted a voice, very much like Thrash. Which meant, thought Crom, that he must still be alive, or at least not dead. “I said report!” came the persistent voice. “Sensory to bridge, no data still.” “Engineering, engines seem just fine, sir.” “Security, all personnel accounted for.” “Astrogation, all systems are down.” “Piloting, all gear is good to go sir.” “Comm, all systems are dead, and our hyperlink was sheered off in the junction, no time to retract it.” “Gunnery, weapons charged and EM shields holding at 96%.” “Damn!” cursed Thrash,”Well, can anyone get a read on the marine’s?” “Not a sausage captain, sorry.” Thrash embarked on a five minute experiment to find out how angry he could get, and found that apparently, there was no limit. “OK!” he shouted,”Everyone on-board, prepare for ship-to-ship docking maneuvers. We’re going over there for a little chat. Crom, are your data lists online yet?” “The lists are still down sir, but I think I can land us in the escape pod bay. If gunnery can blast a big enough hole in their backdoor.” “OK, gunnery, target the EP bay and blast the door off, try not to rupture the hull, OK?” “Aye captain!” gunnery replied. The next instant a brilliant blue beam of plasma arced off into the void protected by a class 2 helix and splashed against the seam of the EP bay. The plasma just splashed off at first, but after a second or two the splatter went away and a steady stream of air blasted out into the starry night. After a minute or two the door was suddenly blasted out into space, fortunately not at the Redemption, and the EP bay was exposed. “Its full...” came Sensory’s appraisal of the bay. “Odd considering this ship is floating dead in space” said Thrash,”perhaps they teleported onto another ship.” “Or perhaps their all dead.” stated Crom,”which would seem to be likely in this case. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a trap. The rebel’s force is getting stronger in the Solar System these days, I wouldn’t put it past them to hit something this big.” “Crom, I dont care what you think! Just get us into that EP bay and touch down!” shouted Thrash. “Aye captain. But I want it on the record that I’m against this”, replied Crom. “Fine. Your statement is duly noted, now land this ship, or do I have to relieve you of your post?” stated Thrash, in an oddly calm voice. “No, ill do it, sir.” Crom grumbled.

The sleek scout ship of the Collective Armed Forces slid thought the inky blackness of space toward the goliath of a transport. The running lights on the outside were still working perfectly. One could hardly tell it was a dead ship. However, on closer inspection, it was revealed that in some places there were gaping holes in the outer hull, and some of the running lights had been blasted out from the inside, as it looked from space. All together an obvious ghost ship.

Marine Lt. Commander Jani watched the darkened hallway with barely constrained fear. Ever since getting beamed into this ship things had gone badly. Shortly after they had reported that all were aboard and that they were starting their search, the Redemption had stopped sending signals. He had then ordered the comm officer to check his gear. He found that a cloak field was established around the ship, preventing all transmissions out of, or into, the ship. He had then ordered that a beach head be established at the primary LZ so if the Redemption did come for them, they would know where to look. Jani had then taken four of his best men with him into the ship, just to see if he could find out what had happened to the crew. He had also ordered that a cloak dampener must be on at all times with all team members, so nothing could sneak up on them without warning. He had taken his squad deep into the transports inner systems, until he found the command bridge. However, what he had found there was enough to frighten him and his men into a sort of stupor. The bodies of the entire crew were laying all over the place, mostly together in the center of the bridge. Obviously piled there. No gunshot wounds were evident, but instead great slashes and gaping holes. The only place in the room that a weapon had obviously been discharged was the pilots rig in the forward part of the bridge. Someone had shot it several times with a fusion pistol, melting the keyboard to slag and utterly destroying the LCD view screen. “Someone made sure that no one can ever pilot this ship without some repair work.” stated Jinn. “Sir, you better take a look at this.”, Trig said. When Jani went over to the diagnostics console he was simply amazed. “This is impossible!” Jani flustered,”No one can remove those engines short of dry dock, and towing a ship this large into the middle of no where would take years!” You see, the immense distorter ion drive of the transport was simply not there anymore. In its place was a cluster of technologies that none of the troopers could even begin to figure out, but they were obviously not human in origin. “Shit.”, muttered Jani in a vaguely worried voice,”I really think we need to get out of here. Perhaps very soon as well.” Suddenly their communicators flared into life and carried a voice thick with fright. “Sir, we’re under attack! We cant get a positive ID on the attackers, but its not the crew! So far we’ve been able to hold them back behind a bunker we were able to construct across the main doors, but I’m not sure how long its going to last! Wait a second...why’s the floor movi...” The comm broke out into static and automatically shut itself off again. “Jani to beachhead! Report! Jani to beachhead, report please! Damn!” Jani threw the comm into the wall, shattering it into a thousand pieces. “Lets move!”, he shouted. The small group of marines retraced their winding path back to the primary LZ to aid their squad. Along the way they started to hear odd noises coming from all around them. Strange hissing sounds along with a perpetual clicking noise that was beginning to grate on Jani’s mind. Suddenly a floor panel in front of them rose up half a centimeter and dropped back down with an audible clank. “Fire!”, Jani screamed. An audible blast of air, similar to when a super-sonic aircraft flies over you and blasts your ears into your skull, filled the hall as Jani and his team blasted the floor with Double SMG’s, Assault Rifles, and assorted energy weapons. A low wail sounded from under the floor and a loud thump, and suddenly all the sound just stopped. Utter silence. Even the constant clicking that had followed Jani and his squad since they left the bridge was gone. One of Jani’s team slowly went to the deck plate that had lifted up, now full of smoking holes and carbon scoring, and slowly raised it half an inch. Nothing happened. He raised it all the way and let it lock into the open Position and he glanced down into the black hole. Suddenly the man disappeared over the edge and the clicking returned with a vengeance. Jani bellowed with rage and filled the deck plating with heavy Double SMG fire. Deck plates jumped from the concussion waves of tungsten plated, depleted uranium slugs slamming into steel plates, and going through it like a knife through butter. His gun clicked to signify that it was finally out of ammo, and continued clicking as Jani left his finger on the fire switch. One of his team came over and gently removed his finger from the button and sat him down on the floor plating. A deck plate fell through to the lower maintenance level and clanked hollowly as it hit the various pieces of equipment below. “Their all dead.”, Jani lamented in a voice devoid of feeling,” And its all my fault.”

A jarring thump was felt all through the command bridge of the Redemption as it finally settled down for a landing inside the Ejector Pod Bay. “OK everyone, we’ve been unable to raise the squad so far so we’re going to do a search operation. We must assume that there is a heavy enemy presence here, so I want the squad to stick together. Ill take point, and Green, you take the flank.” Crom stayed behind to guard the Redemption, seeing as Thrash was angry with him. Thrash took his team to the airlock that shut the Ejector Pod bay away from the rest of the ship. “Two at a time.”, Thrash said over his suits comm,”and try and cover each other.” Thrash and Mindel stepped into the airlock and the green light turned to red as it cycled. “Its clear!”, stated Thrash,”but there’s some sort of interference with the rest of the squad still.” As the rest of the squad came into the long hallway that they had entered, they switched over to filtered air instead of their tanks, just in case. Thrash split the team in half and sent the other half to the primary LZ point, just in case. Thrash led his half of the team to the command bridge, to see if they could discern what had happened to the ship.

“That’s odd.”, thought Crom as he read the data list on his console,”the ships moving...” Indeed it was. However only Crom knew this, as he was the only one with access to an astrometrics data list. He attempted to raise Thrash or Mindel on the comm, or even Jani, but the interference had swallowed all signals they sent. He hurried down the long corridor that led to the comm station to see if he could find a way to reach the team.

“Sir! Get up sir!”, Trig said in a voice full of tension,”we need to get out of here!” The clicking had begun to get bad again and it was wearing down the four mens brave souls. All attempts to get Jani to move we’re an abandoned cause. “Sorry sir, but I’m afraid we’ve got to get out of here! If you can hear us, we’re going to the hyperlink tower to try and raise the Redemption! See you on the other side, sir!”, yelled Trig over the now exceedingly loud clicking. The three men ran down the corridor over the badly dented and abused deck plating towards the front of the ship. Jani, in a fog, watched his men run away from him. He found himself unable to shout or even to move a Mussel. This was the first time he had ever found himself afraid, and it made him unable to move. Unnoticed by him, the clicking gradually withdrew after his remaining men. A few minutes later shots rang out followed by a single short scream of terror. Silence.

“What was that?”, Thrash muttered. “I didn’t hear anything, sir.”, replied the Redemption’s medical officer, Tinslow. “My mind must be playing tricks with me.”, thought Thrash as he jogged towards the command bridge. In the background an odd hum had filled the ship. Like some sort of generator. This went mainly unobserved by the squad and it thundered down the corridor. “Hold it!”, shouted Thrash,”Here’s the command bridge!” The doors we’re closed and looked like someone had used something to cut deep grooves into the surface of the door. They opened the door to find the bridge in shambles. Deep grooves were on every surface and most of the view screens were smashed into nothing. Liquid crystal stained the carpet around the computer consoles and in the very center of the bridge was a huge red stain. “Blood.”, stated Tinslow. This seemed to worry Thrash a little, but the look quickly faded. “See if anything in this room works people! We need some information!” Thrash ordered. He then tried to raise Mindel’s squad but got only static. “Damn interference.”, he muttered. “Sir!” someone yelled,”we found a data pad over here! It still works!” Thrash hurried over to a group of officers and grabbed the pad away. He then examined its memory and found that all it contained was a single message and a schematic. The message was just a lot of clicks and the schematic didn’t make sense, so he threw it away.

Jani slowly pulled himself together. He realized that everyone was now dead, and that he was alone. He flicked some spots of blood off his armor and stood up. He then turned back towards the command bridge and started to jog brokenly towards its location. He quickly slung his Double SMG over his back and drew his Assault Rifle, which still had some ammo packs left. Every time he heard any sort of click he fired a quick burst at the wall or floor and ran faster. As he came towards the bridge he noticed that the lighting systems in the hall were starting to dim slightly. With a jolt the they shut off completely. Ahead he saw a doorway that had a crack of light around it. It was, of course, the bridge. The doorway was closed, which in itself was odd. And then he noticed that there were grooves in the door that had not been there before. He quickly opened the door and rolled into the room. When he came up in a crouch, he took aim at the first thing he saw, and pulled the trigger.

Crom stared in frustrated silence at the comm gear in front of him. He wasn’t that great of an engineer and stuck mostly to astrogation and piloting. Comm gear was quite beyond him. Instead he quickly decided that he would go and find Thrash or Mindel alone. “After all,”,he thought,”someone has to inform them of the ships new heading.” He raided the armory and grabbed a Fusion Grenade launcher, a energy pack, a suit, and a shotgun. Thusly armed, he walked through the airlock on the Redemption and keycode locked it behind him. He then ran to the lock leading into the transport and quickly cycled it open. A few seconds later he was in the hall and running like mad down the first direction that came to mind.

“What the hell!”, yelled Thrash in a rather annoyed voice. The marine commander had blown the door in and charged up to Thrash, pulling the trigger on his Assault Rifle. The gun issued a light click and refrained from firing. “Captain?”, whispered Jani,”what’s going on?” “We’re not sure yet Jani, where might I ask is your squad?”, asked Thrash. “Dead.”, stated Jani in a lifeless voice. “All of them? That’s impossible! Who is onboard? Rebels?”, Thrash streamed the questions out all at once. “Not rebels sir”, Jani muttered,”but something else. Im not sure what. They move under the deck plates, fast. They make this horrible clicking noise! Whatever they are, they removed the engines and put something else in their place, we couldn’t figure out what. They just aren’t human!” Thrash seemed like he wasn’t listening. “What happened to the primary LZ?”, Thrash asked offhandedly. “The entire squad stopped transmitting. I believe them dead also sir.”, Jani answered. Thrash quickly flipped his suit comm on and send out a desperate message to Mendels team, but was answered only with static. Out of the blue every comm system on every trooper suddenly turned on and a single voice asked one simple question. “Anyone out there?”

Crom was happy that he had found the rest of the squad finally, or what was left of it as he understood it. It was hard to imagine that many marines getting wiped out, but then again this ship was almost two miles long. It could hold a lot of enemy troops. The whole business of aliens just made him wonder if Jani had cracked under pressure. It was his first job as commanding officer and perhaps he just couldn’t handle it. Thrash had ordered them to plant a Nova Detonator in the center of the bridge, in the middle of a large red stain. Thrash again split the squad and sent half the squad to place router beacons along the hall to the main energy generator of the transport. They were also to hook up the Nova bomb to the fusion reactor so that the entire ship would be blown out of the sky. Thrash team was to go back to the ship and place routers on the way. The Nova bomb is a complicated affair that requires three parts, the sequencer, the detonator, and the actual bomb. The sequencer provides the codes to the detonator which routes the signal to the bomb, resulting in a massive output of thermal energy. Its designed primarily as a planetary warfare device as in space its much to large for anything but demolition. The order of its use caused the squad quite an uproar, as the only known Hyperspace junction nearby was within the calculated blast radius. It was unknown if the Redemption could outrun the blast.

Halfway back to the ship, Thrash squad began to hear a clicking noise that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Everyone noticed Jani suddenly jerk upright and grab his newly reloaded Double SMG. Something clanked loudly up ahead and the squad let fly with a barrage of gunfire. Someone in the rear of the squad screamed and was cut short. Crom turned and fired his Fusion Grenade launcher and saw it hit a solid wall of three foot high black lizard creatures. They had six inch long claws and apparently lots of teeth. The origin of the mysterious grooves in the walls and doors was now solved. The man had six of the creatures on him and was already dead as he fell. A second fusion grenade blew the man into cinders and took the creatures along with him. The entire squad broke into a run led by Thrash, Jani, Crom, and Tinslow. Screams could be heard along with bellows from the small creatures. Oddly they sounded seven feet tall. Soon the squads numbers were countable on two hands. As the squad reached the airlock to the outside, they all switched to onboard air systems and Crom squeezed the trigger on his Fusion launcher, blowing the airlock outwards. A sudden gust of wind blew all four team members out the lock and into the open bay. Thrash, Jani, and Crom were able to use grapple lines to grab onto projections before being blown into space. Tinslow grabbed onto Thrash leg and held on for dear life. About twenty little black creatures blew out of the door before the wind ceased and gravity was restored. The little creatures apparently didn’t need air, since they ran towards the crew remarkably quick. Jani fired a continuos burst of SMG fire down their throats while Tinslow sniped with a Gauss rifle. Thrash took Croms Fusion Launcher and started laying about him like a maniac. Crom meanwhile opened the airlock to the cargo bay on the Redemption. The remains of the crew ran up the ramp and quickly turned, sending a volley of gunfire down at the creatures. The ramp slowly closed itself as Crom punched the close code. All of them breathed a sign of relief. Unfortunately, it was short lived. The entire ship shook as if someone had just struck it with a hammer. Everyone ran forward to the bridge and took their stations. Thrash took hold of his command chair while Crom floated up to the pilots harness and strapped himself in. Tinslow quickly took control of sensory while Jani took his post at gunnery. After all was done, artificial anti-gravity was turned off and Crom used bypass controls to start the engine pre-start sequence. Dull thuds could be heard through the hull as Jani extended the ships anti-personnel weapons and laid about the ship with them. When Crom guessed that the prestart was done, he grabbed the manual controls and lifted the ship up on its underjets, vaporizing several of the creatures. Thrash quickly laid in a course and plotted the astrogation needed to outrun the nova bomb, if the other team had ever gotten it planted. Crom send the ship barreling out of the Escape pod bays doors and out into space. The transport dwindled amazingly fast in the viewer. Suddenly the transport seemed to turn on its axis and turn towards them. “Oh shit!”, yelled Tinslow,”incoming missile volley!” Jani fired off some decoys while Crom took evasive. Thrash was muttering to himself about codes and fiddling with a sequencer. Suddenly the entire viewscreen was engulfed in a huge ball of incandescent light. Crom punched the accelerator to the max and crossed his fingers. After a light shaking the ship quieted down. “So,”, Tinslow muttered,”we made it?” “Aye, that we did!”, shouted Thrash. The crew of four all sighed in relief as they realized they were alive, while at the same time realizing that over 400 people had died. The crew of 320 onboard the transport, and the crew of 80 on the scout.

As a pinpoint of light dwindled in the distance, speeding off to the nearest junction point, a molecule of dazzling light appeared in the center of a metallic cloud. Out of which a strange ship began to flow...