Ghosts of the Federation

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Dirka
Posts: 135
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:44 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Dirka » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:45 pm

Wow, this reads and feels wonderful, like home... You know what this reminds me of?

Ahab: You have the Rebels on you; pirates and Slugs. Half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself... and you're carrying military secrets.
Brant: We're still flying.
Ahab: That's not much.
Brant: It's enough.


Anyway, thanks.
SmoothPapaJ
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:56 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:01 pm

Dirka wrote:Wow, this reads and feels wonderful, like home... You know what this reminds me of?

Ahab: You have the Rebels on you; pirates and Slugs. Half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself... and you're carrying military secrets.
Brant: We're still flying.
Ahab: That's not much.
Brant: It's enough.


Anyway, thanks.


I'm glad this comes through. The source material is Firefly-esque in nature, so that's what I'm trying to channel. Personally, I see Ahab as more the Book of the bunch, though more less frustratingly tight-lipped about his past. Hopefully this comes through in future installments.
SmoothPapaJ
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 1:56 am

Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:14 pm

The bridge door slid open, and Brant and 78 strode in. Her uniform was freshly cleaned and the Federation insignia on his chassis shone with fresh polish, and they both had stainless steel cups of hot stimulant in hand. Brant walked up to the pilot station and looked over Toh’s shoulder at the various sensors and instruments. She understood the readings for the most part, but she would probably need a few minutes with a calculator to reach the same conclusions with them that the experienced ensign could intuit at a glance. Still, she put her cup down on the flat metal surface above the consoles and eyed the instruments, curious how much of that old nav training she still had kicking around up there.
“What are we now, twenty minutes?” she guessed.
Toh turned to look her in the eye without saying a word. He pointedly shifted his gaze to the cup, then back to the captain. 78 made a little disapproving click.
“What?” Brant asked. “I can’t be off by that much.”
Toh looked back at the cup, then back at her. She returned the gaze, the fires of his molten interior crackling in his red-hot, slightly-disappointed gaze.
“Oh,” Brant said. She reached into one of the drawers next to the console, took out a little gray polyglass coaster, and placed it under her cup. The ensign nodded.
“’bout ten minutes,” Toh said.
Brant snapped her fingers. “Shucks.”
“Nah, you did good. Just some of these dials ain’t calibrated right anymore,” Toh said in his long, slow drawl. He tapped one of the meters, displaying their relative speed in real space. “Like this one here, you’d think we were going 8,000-c, but it ain’t been right since that ion mine shook it up last month. We’re 16,000-c, easy.”
78’s screen flickered. “Impossible. Supervised repairs, and routine diagnostics reveal no malfunction.”
“They ain’t broken. They’re precise and all. They just ain’t accurate,” Toh said. “Like a pistol that always shoots a little to the right. It’s all useable if you know how much each one’s off by. Not a problem.”
Brant frowned. “I don’t remember you putting in any requisition orders to address this.”
Toh waved off her concern without looking at her. “We’d need to change out some parts for fresh ones, and then they’d start behaving different with all the other sensor systems – we’d be better off replacing the whole sensor array, and I know we ain’t got scrap for that.”
Toh sounded completely at ease, and that bothered Brant. As the only other officer on board besides her and the commander, he should know better. “Ensign, that is not your call to make. I need to know what’s going on with this ship, big and small, and a pilot’s console that could catastrophically mislead any other member of the crew who might have to man it if you are incapacitated fits squarely into the ‘big’ category.”
He looked back at her. God, she wished sometimes for another human on board, someone whose faces conveyed easily recognizable emotions. The two molten eyes that looked at her now could be ashamed, or angry, or testing.
“I apologize, sir,” Toh said, sounding contrite. “It won’t happen again.” A human would also understand that the appropriate greeting was “Ma’am,” but since so few of the spacefaring races even had different sexes, she did not bother with that battle.
“Good,” she said, picking up her cup and walking to her chair in the middle of the bridge. “Mr. 78, take a requisition from Ensign Toh when we make our next jump so that we know what we need when we have the resources. ETA?”
“Six minutes, captain,” Toh said.
“Very good.” She sat and keyed the ship intercom on her armrest. “All hands to battle stations. Approaching beacon at the outer edge of the Tefinix Cloud in approximately six minutes. We have no knowledge of this beacon or the surrounding region, but we must be ready for a pitched battle of the most grueling sort, so use the biowaste facility now if have to. Stand by to raise shields and charge weapons on my mark after we leave jump state.” She flicked the ship intercom off and keyed in the weapons room. “Ahab?”
The zoltan’s calm, affable voice came into her earpiece. “Captain.”
“How are we looking with the new guns?”
“All systems are installed and functioning perfectly, though I am afraid our guesses about shipboard power supply have been borne out. The reactor will not be able to run all ship and weapons systems concurrently.”
“How much can you give me?”
“At present, any two. I am confident that we could comfortably redirect enough power for three.”
Brant brought up holographic display of the ship layout in front of her face, eyeing the power distribution levels between systems. Yikes. They’d made some upgrades with the materials from Slokkran’s ship, but she’d been hoping for a little more than what she saw. She understood the zoltan’s meaning. Three systems could be accommodated comfortably, and four…
“Mr. 78, redirect 10% power from engines and 100% power from medbay to missile launchers.” They could still maneuver well on 90% power, and wouldn’t need the medbay at once in a firefight. That was comfortable.
She paused for a fraction of a second before issuing the second, uncomfortable command, but her voice did not waver. “And 100% power from life support to beam cannon.”
78, standing next to her, looked at her for a moment. He did not betray himself with any of his usual blinks or whirs of anxiety, though, and he apparently overcame whatever doubts he had in the next second. He faced forward again, and after a few flickers passed over his face, Brant saw the power shift to weapons on her holograph.
“Hey, if there’s a fight, I’m sure we can win before we asphyxiate,” she said.
The air vents rattled and went silent.
A few clicks came out of 78. “Assurance noted. Oxygen overrated anyway.”
“Indeed. You might want to man the engines, 8, see if we can get a little extra performance out of them,” Brant suggested. The engi nodded and walked from the bridge.
Ahab spoke up again from weapons. “All weapon systems online, waiting to charge. May I suggest we make it a priority to seek out reactor upgrades, whatever we find at the beacon?”
“It’s certainly up there, Ahab, but you’ll have to get in line. Stand by for transition.”
"Three minutes, captain,” Toh said.
Brant fiddled with the intercom again. “Acknowledged, ensign. Katarek, report on the shields.”
“Shields suck, captain,” the engineer reported respectfully through her earpiece.
“So you noted in your report earlier.” They hadn’t been able to finagle any upgrades out of the parts from Slokkran’s ships, only managing to add in a few redundancies to make them harder to disable. In Kat’s opinion, which Brant and 78 shared, their shields would not protect them from a well-equipped vessel. Once word got out that a Federation ship, a scrappy little thing chosen for its speed rather than its combat capability, was fleeing back to Federation High Command with heavily-encrypted Rebel intel, intel important enough to warrant pursuit from half the Rebel fleet, they would have to face some well-equipped vessels before long. “But how are our sucky shields doing?”
“Sucky shields are fully operational,” Kat said. “But if we get any useful scrap here…”
“Noted, but you’ll have to get in line. Stand by for transition.” She turned the intercom off and sat back in her chair. She flicked her hand a bit and sent the hologram of the ship’s systems over a foot, enough to let her see the central visual display on the bridge. It only showed static for now.
“One minute, captain.” Toh said.
“Thank you, ensign. Is it your turn or mine?”
“Should be mine, sir, unless you want.”
“No, go ahead,” Brant said. She clasped her hands, closed her eye, and bent her neck forward a little, as Toh did the same.
“Shaper and Preserver, watch over this ship and her crew as we transition out of the jump, which is your gift to us and to all who walk the stars. By your will, may we have fortune in victory and serenity in defeat, as it please you,” Toh intoned. “And I don’t know if you talk to the captain’s carpenter-god, but if you do, ask him to help out, too. We could all really use some scrap.”
Toh struck his fist to his chest, sparks flying from the impact. Brant said “Amen.”
“Transitioning,” Toh said. He touched the appropriate controls, and with a wink and a glimmer, the ship entered material reality again. Brant felt a little light-headed, but leaving jump state was always a little easier on the system than entering. She was fully alert, and a good thing, too.
The sensors had bad news almost immediately.
“Captain, we’ve got a ship,” Toh said.
Brant flicked her wrist to the right. Opposite the readout on the Kestrel, a holograph appeared showing the first few pieces of information on the nearby vessel, made patchy with the background energy of the nebula. Most people in space didn’t want a fight, and this could just be a merchant or a researcher or a commune of drugged-up idealists, who knows, but Brant thought she recognized the scrambled outline.
“Crap,” she muttered.
“The cloud’s interfering with the instruments, but I think…” Toh said, his voice trailing off as he tried to make sense of the fragmented information on the vessel.
Brant’s eye darted back and forth over the scans of the various systems on the ship as they came through, confirming her guess. The drive signature, the system placement, the shape – every little piece of info fleshed out her suspicion.
She opened a channel to engineering. That ship gave her a bad feeling. “Is that a Cormorant, 8?”
78, eyeing the same scans, chimed in the affirmative. “Almost certainly. Layout is certainly consistent with Rebel rigger design, but systems and energy readings not consistent with modern Rebel fleet.”
Brant nodded. That’s about what she’d thought. The Rebels had built Cormorant-class riggers early on in the Rebellion, before they’d pushed into the Federation interior and captured serious production worlds. After that, the Rebels were putting out some of the most advanced ships in space, and the primitive, inefficient models that had once been their backbone were scrapped to make sleek new cruisers and destroyers. This thing was an antique; it didn’t even have the drone systems typical of later Rebel riggers. What was this doing out here, then, still flying and so far from the fleet?
The scan was briefly overlaid by a flash of visual display, showing a still image of the ship itself rather than a blueprint, and Brant had her answer. Over the usual loud orange of the Rebel fleet, this Cormorant was covered in splotches of purple, splashed haphazardly over the ship except for one image painted with care: a purple void kraken, its cranium crisscrossed with bones.
“Pirates,” Brant hissed to herself. She keyed the intercom for the ship, and spoke clearly. “Game faces, people. We’ve got pirates.”
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Kieve
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Kieve » Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:45 am

The characterization you put into this is magnificent. Please, continue. ;)
SmoothPapaJ
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Fri Jul 04, 2014 4:59 am

“Have they spotted us?” Toh whispered, reflexively, as if the other ship could hear him.
“Can’t tell. They might be charging weapons, but through all this interference it’s hard to tell. Got to play this by the book, anyway.” Regulation dictated that as captain, she was required to establish communication with unidentified vessels before opening fire. It was only right, anyway. This could be a slaver ship that had been taken over by its own rebellious captives, charging weapons purely in reaction to the Kestrel’s doing so, or some other such sob story. Nothing would be lost in a bit of chitchat while the lasers heated up.
Brant brushed the communications symbol next to her holograph of the pirate vessel. “Hailing them now. Stand by for banter.”
The main display screen in front of Toh crackled to life, displaying a fragmented, staticky picture of an engi who had seen better days. At first, he looked like 78, but 78 would probably have said that about her and a bearded, muscular human male. He had the standard engi anatomy of gray flesh, black wire and metal, and blank facial screen. Then the image clarified a bit, and Brant drew a clear distinction between this pirate and her loyal commander. Where the commander kept his chassis polished and unadorned besides an imprint of the Federation starburst insignia, this engi had festooned himself with all manner of grisly baubles: garlands of razor wire, necklaces of human bones and inert rockman organs, acid-etched tattoos of void krakens and threats in various languages, and a headdress crafted from a preserved mantis cranium.
Brant sat back and cocked an eyebrow. “Come on, guy. Don’t you think that’s a bit much?”
The engi’s screen flashed white and fired off a burst of squealing, furious static. “Human bitch will be silent and receive our demands. Depower weapons and prepare the following tribute. Alternative: I order gunner to begin blasting your ship apart.”
An incoming message appeared on Brant’s screen. Without looking at it, she flicked at the holograph controls to print the message out for her from her chair’s printer – a backup tool, mostly for when extreme conditions really interfered with displays. She grabbed the printout.
“These demands?” she asked, still pointedly not looking at it. She proceeded to blow her nose with the printout, wad it up, and toss it at the engi on the main display screen.
The engi’s face screen flared again, but then he too sat back in his chair, chirping and whirring with light laughter. He continued, his synthesized voice much less abrasive. “Apologies. Only now noticing Federation markings – recommend starting over.” One of his claw-hands reached into a compartment on his side, rummaging around before coming out with a small, battered Federation insignia. “Greetings, comrades. I am HT-XKP-145. Served with current crew aboard Osprey-III not long ago – currently trying to survive.” The engi jumped a little, suddenly remembering something, then knocked off the headdress quickly. “Erm. Had to commandeer Rebel vessel when Osprey too damaged, and life in Cloud difficult – have to cultivate suitably grotesque image to avoid falling prey. Apologies for shock – depowering weapons now.” He made a gesture off-screen.
Brant narrowed her eyes. The nebula, as the engi surely knew, prevented any scans that might confirm they’d actually powered down. The Osprey series had put out some badass ships, but they’d still been perfecting its experimental systems when the Rebellion began; the Feds had never had many Ospreys, and they’d lost almost all of them early on. The Cormorant series had been a load of dog crap, on the other hand, and the Rebels had ditched almost all of them early on. How did an Osprey lose to a Cormorant? The insignia looked genuine, and she didn’t think this was a total bluff, but something stank.
She made some gestures off to a wall as if ordering someone to power weapons down, then looked briefly back at the display showing their laser batteries heating up. “Captain Charlotte Brant. A pleasure. I take it by your appearance that you’ve been out here a while.
“Hard to say. Nebula interferes with everything. Clocks temperamental. But yes – separated from fleet for a long time. Unable to make contact.”
And that could well be. God knew Brant had had trouble contacting the fleet, or what passed for the fleet these days. The Rebels owed their victory in no small part to a brutal, sustained attack on the Federation’s communication system. That network had been constructed, maintained, and protected by the most experienced engi technicians, and it was held to be the most advanced and secure comm system in the galaxy. That the Rebels had been able to make any kind of dent in it, let alone shut it down entirely, had caught everyone with their pants down. To this day, no one knew how they’d pulled it off.
So he could be telling the truth. If it had been easy to contact the remains of the Federation, they could have just beamed the encrypted intel they’d captured back to High Command; instead, the splinter fleet had had to assign someone of Andrews’ reputation to a quick, low-profile ship like the Kestrel to manually carry the intel back to High Command. She nodded.
“There isn’t really a fleet left to be separated from anymore. The Rebels ate us for breakfast and had the leftovers for lunch – the Federation’s all but done. Sorry to be the one to tell you,” she said. It wasn’t totally true yet, but she doubted the engi would know that. The power readouts showed that her first salvo would be ready in just a few seconds. She didn’t have the authority to use it yet, though, so she kept working at her hunch. “Frankly, we’d be dead too if we’d stuck to our orders. Either High Command couldn’t read the writing on the wall, or they really liked the idea of fighting to the last man.”
145 whirred with laughter. “Indeed. Suspect the latter. Nothing but romantics in command. Dearly wish that I could have died at post like good little sailor. To die in service – very noble, much more so than current life of sin.”
“Where is your captain, 145?”
The engi did not move. His face flickered with caution. “I am captain.”
“You’re missing a few pips, lieutenant. That is not a captain’s insignia.”
“Observant. Late captain Eluzakra died suddenly in engagement with this vessel. I am acting captain. Apologize for semantic confusion.” He stared at Brant, and she returned the gaze.
“Very well, acting captain,” Brant said slowly, deliberately, her fingers drumming over the command keys on her armrest to give the order to fire. She flicked a key just above it instead, and a bright red hologram appeared in front of her face with the seal of the Federation and an intricate coded bar. “I hate to be rude, but we’re in a rush. I outrank you, and more importantly, this ship is on an official mission of level-10 priority, as decreed by Admiral Teramel-Ur-Curda and Captain Damion Andrews. I am given maximum discretion in carrying this mission out, and I’m afraid I must commission your ship, its systems, and its resources for my own means.”
The engi’s face flickered various colors in consternation. “You see? Nothing but romantics. Federation effectively dead by your own admission, and still you follow last orders to last breath. Very noble.” He paused. His face took on a faint red glow. “Captain Eluzakra very noble, as well. Orders to defend Ignus-XI production world from Rebel advance. 8% chance of victory. 8%, and insisted on following orders.” 145 shook his head. “Rebel victory tragic, but obvious, inevitable even from early days of Rebellion. Captain could not see.” The engi leaned forward. Brant did not shift her gaze, noting only the flashing lights of her charged weapon systems in her peripherals. “Captain Eluzakra died suddenly in engagement with this vessel, yes. She died suddenly because I shot her in back of head with sidearm, and then shot her in head twice more when she was lying on floor.” He keyed a few commands into his armrest, and without even looking to confirm that the Cormorant had fired, she had keyed in a channel to weapons.
“Ahab!” she growled. “Fire at will!”
SmoothPapaJ
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby SmoothPapaJ » Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:48 am

Brant crouched with her back against the door frame, holding her pistol up in front of her, trying to catch her breath. Toh stood next to her, and Mickleson and 78 were braced against the frame on the other side of the opening, all cradling sidearms and darting eyes at each other.
“Come, cowards! Strike!” the mantis shrieked from the compartment inside. “I have many pressing appointments in Hell today, and you delay me!” The mantis started cackling, and a flurry of plasma fire spat out of the doorway. One burst struck the door by Brant’s face, and she brought her arm up with a hiss as hot sparks brushed against her face. Her eyes stung with the heat.
“Shaper and preserver, watch over us now as we struggle with your enemies, permit us to…” Toh whispered to himself.
“Lieutenant Commander?” Mickelson asked of 78. The engi was vibrating slightly, his movements jerky and uncertain, but he slowly nodded.
“Unacceptable risks in rushing chamber blindly. Mantis well-armed, and had time to prepare for us – risk of traps uncertain. Perhaps attempt to negotiate surrender.” His face screen was blinking red and yellow and his voice was whirring with reluctance. “Very much open to suggestions. Lieutenant?”
Brant was thinking. She didn’t like the idea of a wounded crew bum rushing a rested, well-armed, cornered mantis, but this one had also just lost her whole crew, she knew that her ship would be crippled and dismantled as soon as this engagement was over, and she would not take life in captivity well – this creature would never surrender.
Brant pointed at her sidearm, pointing at the buttons that controlled shot output. She pantomimed pushing it a lot, then mimed throwing it in the room and making a little explosion with her hands. She nodded at 78 for approval.
“Mmm,” 78 hummed. “Yes. But you are better shot. Permit me.”
Brant nodded, and the engi set his sidearm to catastrophically overload in a few seconds. The gun, now more of a grenade, started beeping wildly in his hands. He tossed it blindly into the chamber, the beeping speeding up urgently.
The mantis fired wildly at the door, and Brant thought she was trying to shoot the gun out of the air. Then she heard the beeping getting closer…
“Oh crap,” Mickelson muttered. 78 squealed a crackling engi obscenity and Toh’s prayers became more fervent as the mantis tossed the beeping gun back through the doorway. Brant couldn’t believe how careless they were being – they should have put down covering fire like the Fed playbook told them to, like the mantis was currently doing for herself, and as the firearm, now shaking slightly, slid back into view, she wondered if those would be her last thoughts.
78 lunged for the gun, his servos screaming from the sudden effort. Before Brant could react, he landed one claw on the pistol and catapulted it back into the chamber; and before he could make another movement, he all but disintegrated. Solid slugs blew chunks out of his chest and abdomen and plasma rounds sloughed bursts of hot slag off his limbs. He convulsed, his legs buckling, failing, his face screen warping and cracking from heat and impact. It happened so fast, the space of a second; Brant was on her feet, screaming, rushing to help before her brain could tell her what a poor idea this was. The gun exploded violently mid-air and Brant felt hot shrapnel sting her back, and she knew it was her salvation – if not for that distraction, the mantis would have just shot her too.
Brant pulled the engi off to cover, bits of him falling off as they went. Clearly freaking out, Mickelson moved to help only after they were already in cover, and Toh stayed by the door with his pistol ready.
“Lieutenant Commander, do you hear me?” Brant shouted.
Sparks flew out of 78’s face screen. His body twitched, but he made no response.
“This is Lieutenant Brant, do you…8, please, this is Charlotte, talk to me!”
78’s head moved forward slightly, but some hinge clearly wasn’t working and his head jerked to the side. His voice was more static than words as he said, “Primary consciousness undamaged. Reparable…hurts.”
Brant exhaled deeply. “You’ll probably get a medal for that.”
More sparks shot out of 78’s face. “Goodie,” he said. “Mentors at Exenu Hive always said I would not amount to anything. Mantis alive?”
“Whatever else happens, I have to thank you – getting to tear up one last engi was a savory ending to this life,” the mantis shouted within. “Is he still functional, or alive, or whatever it is with his kind?”
“Feeling excellent,” 78 shouted back, though the screeching quality to his damaged voice unit announced the lie. “Has realization that you cannot win entered your brain, or is it just a bundle of muscles with your kind?”
“Oh, you’re right. What a fool I’m being. I’ll just put my weapons down, and you can come take me into custody. There, weapons down. I’m so relieved!”
Toh cautiously extended a hand mirror around the corner in the highly unlikely event she was telling the truth. The mirror promptly exploded, a pistol shot echoing from the chamber.
“Ayup,” Toh said, shaking the broken glass out of his hand.
Brant checked over 78 to make sure he wasn’t just being stoic; her knowledge of engi anatomy was fragmentary at best, but as beat up as he was, it looked like he’d live if he got back to the medbay soon.
“What are we going to do?” Mickelson asked. His eyes were wide and his face was sweaty – barely out of his teens and basic training, the blonde, handsome Mickelson was all the reminder Brant ever needed that this last, desperate mission of the Federation did not have the luxury of taking only the Federation’s finest. They’d had to take who and what was at hand. This wasn’t even that bad of a situation, four against one, and he couldn’t keep his emotions in check; she had the distinct feeling Mickelson wouldn’t last, but then she had that feeling about all of them, herself included.
“Uncertain,” 78 said. “Further use of overloaded sidearms jeopardizes combat capability. Contact captain – recommend return to Kestrel, destroying life support systems with ship weapons…”
“That would certainly do it.”
Brant jumped at the voice behind her, then felt a surge of relief. She straightened herself, turned, and saluted.
Captain Andrews nodded casually at her. He was a human male in his fifties, tall and dark-skinned, bald and with a stern, fatherly face. He had his own sidearm drawn in one hand and a crackling power baton in the other, but they may as well have been a walking stick and a refreshing cocktail for all the stress on his face. “As you were, lieutenant.”
“Captain!” 78 said, his body spasming; Brant thought he might have been trying to sit upright a little and salute, but his busted joints weren’t having it. “Apologies. Situation…not good.”
“Sir, I have to agree with 78’s appraisal. We’re not in a position to confront the mantis personally without taking losses – we may need to resolve this with shipboard weapons,” Brant said.
“He’d have plenty of time to fire back while we wait for him to suffocate. We can’t afford repairs right now, and I’m not sure we can afford to damage this craft any more than necessary. We need every ounce of salvage we can come by,” Andrews said firmly. “Besides, he’s not…”
“She, primate!” the mantis howled back. “I’m female! Here I thought all you apes could think about was sex.”
“My apologies,” Andrews shouted back. “I just got here.” He turned back to Brant. “Besides, consider all of your options. Which approach here has the highest potential benefits?”
Brant thought about this. “We…neutralize the mantis in close quarters, with minimal damage to the ship and systems, so that we can maximize our returns in salvage.”
Andrews chuckled. “Well, yes, but not in the sense you mean.” Andrews crept up to the door frame next to Mickelson and pressed against it. He nodded acknowledgment at Mickelson and Toh, then looked up into the air. “You and your people fought well. My people and I fought better. Your people are all dead now.”
Brant cringed a little, but she could see where this was going. If they couldn’t safely kill the mantis in her corner, they could taunt her out of it. She knelt over 78, shielding him and getting ready to defend herself.
“Ha! Don’t congratulate yourself too much, ape. I’ve fought with four different crews on six different ships, and these were the crappiest of both,” the mantis said. “This was hardly a fair fight.”
“I choose to take that a compliment. Fairness is an expensive luxury for us these days. We have to pick our battles, and it sounds like we picked well this time.” Andrews looked over at Brant and winked.
“Hurray for you. I know when I’m beaten, anyway – put down your weapons so I know you won’t just shoot me, and maybe we can discuss my surrender face to face.”
“To face you unarmed would be to treat you as less than a threat, and I would not pay you that insult,” Andrews said. “So I’ll discuss it from right here, and I’ll offer these terms: join us, or my people will blow your ship apart.”
Brant’s breath hitched. This was either a sincere offer to take a treacherous, violent mantis on board, or a duplicitous attempt to lure the enemy into the open on false pretenses and execute her. She would not have expected either from the captain.
“Ha! You will not insult my martial abilities, but you will insult my intelligence. I defecate on your terms and stuff them in your mouth. ‘Join me or die,’ he says – ha!”
“Oh, those were not my terms,” Andrews called out. “To be sure, you’re going to die either way.”
A pause. “…what?” asked the mantis.
“You’ve probably noticed that the Federation is in rapid decline. How long has it been since one of our ships has been through this sector?”
“You’re the only idiots I’ve seen in months flying Fed colors. Everyone else who used to roll with your fleet in this sector had the good sense to die or go pirate,” the mantis said. “They say the Rebels really handed it to you. Can’t say you didn’t have it coming, either.”
“There’s a few on High Command who’d agree with you there, too. My ship’s involved in a top priority mission involving highly secretive Rebel intelligence, and the Rebels know about us – if you join up with us, you’ll be fighting for your life everywhere we go. I intend to carry our orders out to the letter, because what the hell else is there to do, but make no mistake: whether you make your stand here or join us, your odds of escaping a violent death in the near future won’t change much. You’ll get a few extra weeks, tops, and they’ll be filled with all manner of violence.”
Mickelson made a kind of chirping noise and looked like he might throw up, his nerves bubbling over before he could reassert control.
“I’ll admit, your offer has some savor to it,” said the mantis. “How can I trust you?”
“Hell, use your own appraisal! You have brought my four best boarders at a stalemate all by yourself. Plainly, I’m in need of someone with close combat expertise.”
A pause. “They are quite pitiful, yes.”
Andrews looked at his people and winked, mouthing ‘sorry’. “I also have it from your own mouth that you didn’t care much for this ship or crew, so I don’t suspect any particular grudge on your part. And you know we’re Federation, so you know I’m not lying about hard times ahead.
“I tell you what – I’m going to come in there now. I’m well-armed and I know what I’m about in a fight, so if you think I’m trying to fool you, then you and me can just hash this out in whatever way comes natural.”
Brant’s heart stopped and her breath hitched as Brant strode out into the doorway, baton crackling and firearm humming. She had heard much of the treachery of the mantids, that you can only ever trust one to betray you at the worst possible moment, that they were like the scorpion in the fable with violence and backstabbing engrained in their nature. She would learn, of course, that this was so much propaganda left over from past wars – in reality, the mantis race with their hive-like roots had loyalty and service engrained on a genetic level.
Katarek accepted Andrews’ offer, and though she felt the need to constantly poke and prod at the limits of Andrews’ and later Brant’s command, she quickly became an indispensable part of the crew. As Andrews explained to her later, there were two lessons here. First, when you need to kill stuff, it never hurts to have a mantis on your side. Second, mercy is not merely an ideal for ethics texts, but a powerful tactic in its own right, sometimes the most strategically sound option available.

It was one of Andrews’ most enduring lessons. Brant found herself remembering it as she waited for the traitor ship’s opening salvo. The idea of mercy for mutineers seemed disgusting to her, and yet…
“Enemy fire inbound – taking evasive action. Commander, gimme’ all you’ve got,” Toh said. The compensators on the Kestrel kicked in, absorbing most of the energy from the breakneck turns, stops, and reversals the pilot performed, but not quite enough for Brant to feel secure in her seat. She strapped herself in and looked at her readouts. Despite all the static, she could clearly make out several blips homing in on the ship, indicative of multiple rockets and even more energy bursts. She didn’t like that one bit.
“That’s all they’ve got? I’ve seen better firepower on a neutered canid,” Katarek chuckled over the comm.
“Just keep those shield up, Kat. We’re all good on chuckles up here,” Brant shot back. The Cormorant was better armed than most of its model, which was doubtless why the pirates had opened fire. 145’s ship was much stronger than the average Kestrel-class, but Slokkran’s armory and Brant’s aggressive power allocation had made her stronger still. Brant would win this in a straight fight, but not without getting banged up. Times were already lean, and they needed every ounce of scrap they could manage to get the ship through Rebel space – having to budget for repairs as well might push them past the breaking point. Besides, these were mutineers. She couldn’t count on a straight fight.
She breathed in deep to calm her nerves, and found it not quite as satisfying as she’d expected. Oh, right. The air was off. If this went on too long, they’d need to depower something critical or asphyxiate.
She pitched forward in her seat, her cup flying down and spilling stimulant on the floor. Toh was giving the rockets merry hell, and he’d just slammed the craft to a full stop and jerked it in a new direction as fast as their sub-light drive could take them. Missile targeting computers and laser tracking systems were very sophisticated, but a clever pilot with a fast ship could outsmart or outrun them. Brant saw two of the rocket blips careen past the ship and felt a rumble as a few laser bursts peppered their shields. Then the background energy of the nebula spiked, and her readouts became static.
“Shields holding, capt–” Katarek began before the ship shook violently.
“Missile impact. Couldn’t quite dodge it – having trouble telling where they are with all this static,” Toh said. The readouts crackled back into vision, and the captain and pilot both breathed out a sigh of relief. It wasn’t great news, but the rocket was small, hadn’t punctured the hull, and hadn’t damaged any critical systems. Toh may not have been able to dodge the last shot, but he’d gotten them to take it well.
“Ahab, how’d we do?” Brant asked.
“Light damage to their shields, captain, not much else. We seem to have the advantage, but I suspect it will take some time. Is there any particular tactic you would recommend, or shall I use my own discretion?”
She thought of their conversation earlier. Giving him discretion meant employing pirate tactics. It meant fires in the medbays, or boarding to kidnap captives, or damaging the shields to lure repair crews in before peppering the compartment with antipersonnel rounds. On the one hand, it was unethical and stood squarely against the Federation’s honor code.
On the other hand, 145 had shot his captain in the back of the head so that he could abandon the Federation in its darkest hour.
She looked over the readouts on their first volley, telling at a glance that the Cormorant had good shields and a competent pilot. A quick victory through straight firepower was unlikely.
“Captain – urge restraint,” 78 said. “Graphic retelling of former captain’s execution likely emotional ploy – and besides, Cormorant very inefficient design, but similar structure to Kestrel. If captured with minimal damage, could repurpose many systems for own use. Not suggesting clemency, captain. Merely…judicious use of force.”
“Not sure we have the luxury of choice here, 8. All that scrap won’t make a difference if we have to repair half the ship to get it. If we get a chance to do more than a prick to them, I think we’ve got to take it.” She looked at the power readouts again. Oxygen levels were sinking steadily; the air would be breathable for a few more minutes before they’d have to start sacrificing maneuverability or defense or weapons, none of which they could afford to go without in such an even engagement. They couldn’t even spare anything for the teleporters.
“Ahab, focus all fire on enemy shields, with beam on standby to cut through weapons and engines if we get an opening.”
“Aye aye, captain,” Ahab said over the com.
“Their gunner knows what he’s up to,” Toh said. “If we can get the engines up to full power, we might…”
Brant cut him off. “We might get slowly blown apart because we’ve only barely got enough shielding and firepower to beat these guys as is. Engines stay 90%.”
Toh nodded, his knuckles creaking as he took a firmer hold of his controls. “Yes, captain.”
Brant brought up a visual display of the Cormorant. It was fuzzy as hell, but she could make out the ship and the bright blue outline of its shields through the static. A second salvo of missile and laser fire spat out of the Cormorant just as Ahab fired the Kestrel’s guns, and Brant braced for impact.
“Huh,” Toh said. “Not as many this time.”
Brant did not like that. They hadn’t even scratched the enemy’s weapon systems. Either 145 was going easy on them, or he’d decided to change up…
“Bombs!” 78 screeched. “Explosive ordnance detected!”
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stylesrj
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby stylesrj » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:13 am

Yay! You're still alive! :lol:
Dirka
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby Dirka » Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:54 pm

Oh goodie, my favorite FTL story gets an update. Thanks Papa!

With regards to the last update:
Image

:D
PiratedChaos
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby PiratedChaos » Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:55 pm

Helluva story you got there.
Won on Hard: All ships! :D
Won on CE Hard: Kestrel A, Engi C, Federation B, Zoltan C, Slug A, Rock B
saxyomega
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Re: Ghosts of the Federation

Postby saxyomega » Tue Dec 09, 2014 8:56 pm

Why did I start reading this? I read all of them just now, and every episode ends in a cliffhanger! Now I have to constantly come back like an addict or something!

But seriously, this is good stuff.

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