Episode 128: The Starting Point

Ensign Trell made her adjustments to the power generator, linking it to the network she’d created between all the other units she had modified. As she finished the change, she heard a hum behind her.

“I will.”

Trell turned to see Captain Ortega, holding the weapon she’d knocked out of Alsafi’s hand. He was aiming it at her, and powering it up.

“Will what?” she asked.

“Stop you. You asked who would stop you.”

“Right,” she said. “Sorry, got lost in the work for a moment. Captain Ortega, we have a chance to destroy this ship. If we don’t take it now, then we lose our chance to fight back against our enemy.”

“Your enemy is Emperor Dyson, not the conscripts who’ve been subjected to neural coercion. Destroying this ship will barely weaken the Dyson Empire, will end lives unnecessarily, won’t help us to actually stop him, and kills your Captain. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of any hearing or committee investigating actions like this, believe me.”

“By the Morcalan rules of war, I’m well within my rights,” she said. “And by international law, attacking enemy vessels, even through sabotage, is an acceptable act even if the crew is known to not be acting of their own free will during an invasion attempt. This isn’t a war crime.”

“That doesn’t make it right.”

Trell turned back and smiled.

“And so we’ve hit the breaking point, then? I figured you always found a way to do things by the book, Captain Ortega. I suppose this situation is a bit much for you.”

“That’s your mistake, then,” said Ortega, taking aim with the weapon. “The Astroguard protocols aren’t my limit for doing what needs to be done. They’re my starting point. You have two seconds to step away from the generator.”

Trell looked from Ortega to the gun and back. Fast enough to take even one of Captain Ortega’s experience by surprise, she reached back, input the final change without even looking at the access panel, and jumped at Ortega with her metal pipe as a readout on the power generator began tracking the unit’s capacitor charge. Ortega reflexively pulled the blaster back instead of firing, and grabbed the incoming pipe before it could connect. Trell punched with her free hand, connected, and sent Ortega staggering back. She reached for the weapon while he was disoriented, but he twisted it away and regained composure quickly.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m going to need this.”

“Why?” she said. “It’s done. The machine’s been activated. Unless you’re willing to keep fighting for the entire duration of the countdown… time that we SHOULD spend racing for an escape pod… then there isn’t-”

Ortega fired the blaster. The beam hit Trell and she screamed, dropped the pipe, and fell to the floor. Ortega ran to the generator’s terminal and inspected Trell’s changes.

“There they are!”

Ortega looked down the hall and saw Alsafi, or a similarly dressed Wraithstrike soldier, leading a small cadre of guards and running to meet them. Ortega raised his hands at the sight of the weaponry. He waited for them to draw nearer, and cleared his throat.

“You didn’t even run?” said the Wraithstrike, using a chipper tone that told Ortega that this was still Alsafi. “Geeze, I know escape’s impossible, but-”

“My friend here just rigged this ship to destroy itself,” he said. “We need to disable it.”

“What?” she said. “How? That power generator couldn’t-”

“She’s created some sort of network between at least five of them. She thinks that the combined power overflow will destroy the ship. I’ve seen a lot of self destruct sequences, and her theory might just play out like she thinks it will. This capacitor’s already over twenty percent charged if the readout’s any indication, and I’m guessing the others’ll be progressing along just like it. We need to find the others and reverse what she’s done, otherwise there won’t be a brig that can hold me on this ship anymore.”

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