Sminglenauts 3: Once More Into The Breaching Shuttle
Desperate bands of last-chancers, Deadnauts, take on suicide missions for the slim chance of getting out alive with a payoff that will make it all worthwhile. I created some decidedly unwholesome Deadnaut versions of some Twitter friends. Lets see how far they get before they die horribly, shall we?
Unknown derelict ship, -022.77, -001.48
The breaching shuttle from the Earl Grey carefully approached the derelict ship with gentle puffs from cold-gas thrusters, cameras clicking rapidly as they mapped the hull looking for access points.
The radio crackled and Smingleigh’s voice came through the grilled speaker on the wall as well as the earbuds the Deadnauts were all wearing in their EVA suits. “This ship isn’t in the claims database, so I’ve registered it as a new find. This one goes entirely into our pockets, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a bit…” The signal broke up into static.
“Damn it, Westergren, get away from the radio, your suit’s futzing the signal again.”
“Lars, I can’t hear him.”
Someone threw an empty stim canister at Lars Westergren.
“Sorry,” said Lars sheepishly, as he moved down the cramped compartment, bumping knees all the way.
“…figuration suggests this is a civilian ship that once belonged to the Merinabrax, who died out sixteen hundred years ago.”
“What killed them?” asked Ellis, hunched in her shock couch to keep herself from banging her head on the overhead rail – again.
“Plague, civil war, mutation, cultism, superpredation… Everything killed them, Caelyn. Same as everyone else in the universe.” replied Viv Roth. She didn’t look up from sharpening her axe.
“There,” declared Meeks, who was watching the collage of pictures taking form on the slightly fisheyed screen inset into the shuttle’s front bulkhead, “that’s a hatch, just behind that antenna cluster that looks like a face.”
“It looks like a screaming face, Kyle,” said Ellis.
“It looks like our best way in and out.”
Emil Iucounu remained silent, watching the conversation from behind the bandages that swathed his face, souvenir of a bad cryoburn from a bad freeze in his sleep pod. His fingers twitched every now and then.
Westergren’s eyes were defocused as he took a seat by the boarding hatch, concentrating on some inner landscape, perhaps praying, perhaps daydreaming.
The boarding shuttle approached the service hatch and six salvage grapples sailed across the intervening space, making contact with the hull and sticking with tiny soldering charges. The shuttle winched itself slowly down its grappling lines, careful not to stress the decaying ship’s superstructure. The shuttle’s hatch abutted the service hatch with the gentlest of bumps.
Emil made his way over to the hatch and examined the indicators. “Positive seal, positive lock. Hmm…” He hit the hatch button and the shuttle’s hatch opened, revealing the derelict’s entrance, still sealed. He pulled a device out of his belt, selected one from a dazzling array of dangling cables, and plugged it into the control panel next to the alien hatch. With a bang and a puff of cold dust on stale air, the alien hatch cracked open, then Emil pushed on it, opening the way into the interior of the ship. “Easy money.”
“Show off,” muttered Kyle as he stepped past the smiling Emil and grunted as he passed the ninety degree gravity transition, landing on his feet with the ease of long practice, and glanced up at the hatch, which was now in his ceiling. His scattergun swung smoothly as he inspected his surroundings for threats.
“Clear,” barked Kyle, when nothing tried to eat him straight away.
Viv dropped down through the hatch and landed in what looked like an uncontrolled heap, but she came up smoothly like a predatory animal clutching her axe. Caelyn joined them a moment later. She hung on to the hatch a moment too long over the gravity transition and ended up dangling from the ceiling, but her height gave her only a few inches left to drop. She hefted the heavy shield projector attached to her backpack and glanced around. With the combat team in place, Emil and Lars joined them, landing with more enthusiasm than grace.
Cold dust moved in the air, moving for what might be the first time after being undisturbed for centuries. Water trickled fitfully down one wall of dead displays from an unseen source. Some mechanism in the distance made a fitful banging sound every few seconds in a deceptively simple-sounding rhythm that seemed to change every time anyone was on the verge of grasping it. An alien corpse, mostly limbs with a small humped torso, was draped over a console that looked like it still had power. The main lighting panels in the ceiling were long dead, but there were emergency lighting strips that still cast a respectable illumination after centuries of use.
“The deep scanner is starting up now…” came Smingleigh’s voice over the radio. Westergren, give me a tachyon burst… Thank you. I’ve got you on my screen, designating this room as the Engine Room. I sent the preliminary photos back to Earth, and the Archaeonavigational Department has a lead on the ship’s markings. Welcome to the research ship Myrtian, civilian registry, sailed from Sector 8E on a regular run in about 300CE, and never seen again.”
Lars stepped over to the corpse on the console. He drew a gadget from his belt – a rugged-looking device with a miniature CRT screen, a rubberised keyboard, and a wicked looking sharp spike sticking out of the top, and started recording observations.
“Several deep cuts to torso, multiple defensive wounds to front limbs, but none of them deep enough to kill an adult creature of this size.”
“Unless they’re more fragile than they look,” added Emil.
Lars waved him to silence and poked and prodded and shone a penlight into some of the cuts. “Third degree burns inside the body, like whatever cut him suddenly became very hot.” The function of the spike quickly became apparent when he drove it firmly into the bony hump that housed the Merinabrix’s brain. “MNA genetic structure… This guy, at least, isn’t a mutant,” he said, withdrawing the spike and stepping away from the corpse.
“Good,” said Caelyn, “I hate mutants.”
“I hate them all, whatever they are,” declared Viv, menacing the corpse with her axe.
“Bio scan logged for the team bonus account. The deep scanner shows a network node in the vicinity, can you access it, Emil?”
Emil stepped up to the console and pushed the corpse off, on to the floor, where several of its dry limbs snapped off in puffs of dust, earning a dirty look from Lars. He pulled off an access panel and used crocodile clips to attach a hand-held device with a large circular screen.
“Security is light…” muttered Emil, tapping at buttons and peering at the code that scrolled down his screen. “Open sesame!” he ordered, as the door leading out of the engine room grated open. His bandage-obscured smile turned into a frown as the door started to close itself again straight away. “There’s something still running on the net, and it’s trying to undo my changes.”
“A threat?” asked Caelyn, checking the charge on her field projector.
“Nah, it’s probably just an AI that’s gone senile. It’s not dangerous, but it’s going to be annoying. I’ve erected a firewall to keep it back, but that’s only going to slow it down. I’m going to have to partition each node as we move further in.”
“Is there anything valuable in the local net?”
“I’m sending some data files to you on bravo band.”
“Earl Grey confirms receipt. It’s logged. I have to say, this mission is going remarkably smoothly.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Viv.
“Oh yes, normally someone’s been eaten by now.“