'BOREALIS RISING' - A Subnautica Story V2.0.



  • TigerTomTigerTom Join Date: 2018-02-27 Member: 238363Members
    Best cliffhanger ever
  • derf213derf213 Join Date: 2016-12-06 Member: 224632Members
    It makes me sad that its probably close to the last one.
  • RockaBen99RockaBen99 Join Date: 2019-03-26 Member: 251971Members
    Great story, that last cliffhanger is especially good *smiles evilly*. I wonder what Selkiit's boss(?) will think? Keep up the amazing work!
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited April 2019
    "So, Mister Janáček... How may I be of service?"

    Janáček's stone-cold expression flickered with undisguised distaste. Bingo. Toaster-hater confirmed.

    "Am I addressing the synthetic entity calling itself 'Alexander Fergus Selkirk'? Please confirm."

    "Yes, you are indeed. However, I prefer the term 'trans-human' rather than 'synthetic'. My consciousness may have been transferred to an android body, but I assure you... I still consider myself to be a human being, at least in terms of empathy, moral values and self-awareness. If you are not prepared to treat me accordingly, I strongly recommend that you terminate this link immediately. Find someone better equipped to conduct this matter impartially on Alterra's behalf."

    "That won't be necessary, Engineer Selkirk. I am not here to make friends. Your current... unfortunate condition is of no particular interest to either me or Alterra Corporation. Now that we are in full accord of our mutual dislike for each other, I shall proceed directly to address the matter at hand."

    I smiled agreeably. "By all means do proceed, Mister Janáček. You have my utmost attention."

    I abruptly shifted my position on the bed, as if trying to make myself more comfortable. Entirely unnecessary, of course. By deliberately disabling the camera's image stabilizer, even the slightest motion caused the view it transmitted to bounce around alarmingly.

    Current probability of Janáček copping another revealing eyeful: Eighty-seven point three per cent.

    "When you're quite finished cavorting around with your... Companion, I'd like to begin." He sniffed.

    Out of the camera's field of view, I waggled my finger warningly at Héloise. Don't rise to the bait.

    "Mister Janáček, I am legally declaring my right to record these proceedings, as defined within ICC regulatory resolution fifteen, sub-section two, paragraph one. Do I have your informed consent?"

    Janáček smirked nastily. "You may record the proceedings, Engineer Selkirk. After all, I am."

    He continued, apparently savouring every word. "Alexander Fergus Selkirk, contingent upon your return to Earth, you and your ship's complement are hereby served with notice and bound by law to surrender all Alterra property currently held in your possession. For the record, this property includes one unregistered Antares-class starship designated Borealis, its entire cargo manifest, all exploratory, maintenance and defence vehicles, any unconsumed victuals, tools, equipment, ancillary machinery and general stores recovered from the destroyed Alterra vessel, TCS Aurora. All personnel currently aboard Borealis are legally obliged to remove themselves and all of their personal effects from the vessel within twenty-four hours of docking. Be advised that non-compliance with this directive shall be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

    I stared at Janáček in frank disbelief.

    "You've left us with nothing but the clothes on our backs, man. What about the colonists?"

    Janáček shrugged. "Not my concern or Alterra's. Once you've docked, you're all on your own."

    "What about my wages and employee entitlements, then? I must have something coming to me!"

    Janáček shook his head slowly. "Rather unlikely, I'm afraid. Your contract with Alterra was automatically terminated when Aurora crashed on Alpha Hydrae IV. Even though you survived, your eligibility to receive monthly salary payments and sundry entitlements such as Deep Range Allowance, Officer-grade victualling subsidies and hazardous environment allowance expired precisely ninety days thereafter, as specifically stated in the terms of your employment contract. Presumably, most of your uncollected earnings may have been absorbed by administration fees by now. I suppose I can check with HR, if you like."

    "This isn't what I wanted to hear. I-I just can't deal with this right now." I said, struggling to keep myself from shouting obscenities at the smug face on the other end of the link. "We're going back to Terra to live out the rest of our spans as beggars, thanks to you and that damned Corp. We can't even fight this in court, because you've taken everything we have. You... You've killed us."

    "I'm sorry, Selkirk. There's nothing more I can do for you. It's nothing personal, you understand."

    "Aye, nothing personal. Just doing yer job, Laddie." I muttered bitterly.
  • TheCreeperCowTheCreeperCow Netherlands Join Date: 2016-05-13 Member: 216716Members
    Omg well we are not going back to earth I assume?
  • derf213derf213 Join Date: 2016-12-06 Member: 224632Members
    ooooooooooooooh boy. Do something Al, just anything!
  • 0x6A72320x6A7232 US Join Date: 2016-10-06 Member: 222906Members
    Heh, heh. Pretty sure someone just swallowed a rather nasty bait, hook, line, and sinker. Just waiting for Selkirk to yank now. Either that or he's going to sail off into space and dare anyone to try and come after him. Hmm.

    My only thinking is Selkirk was quite aware of this probability, and planned accordingly.
  • Chris_the_PsionicChris_the_Psionic Join Date: 2018-12-09 Member: 245402Members
    I do believe Mr Janáček has just committed a class one error: Mess with a higher consciousness without proper preparation or without following the appeasement protocol. Mr Janáček I am terribly sorry to say this, but you are so screwed.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited April 2019
    Janáček smiled and nodded. It was a smile you'd cheerfully rearrange with something heavy.

    "Personally, I'm glad that we can finally close the books on the whole Aurora fiasco. You've been extremely helpful in resolving this matter for us, Engineer Selkirk. Thank you for your cooperation."

    "I understand your position, Mister Janáček." I replied icily. "One question, though... Did Alterra eventually mount a search and rescue mission after failing to regain contact with Aurora ?"

    Janáček consulted his desk terminal. "Not immediately, Engineer Selkirk. There were no Alterra vessels operating in that sector at the time. However, a Torgaljin Corp ship en route to Imladris in the Epsilon Hydrae system generously offered to investigate Aurora's presumed disappearance."

    "And what was the name of that vessel, Mister Janáček?" I inquired innocently.

    "The commercial frigate De Ruyter."

    I smiled grimly. "Ah yes, I remember now. Charming folk, those Torgaljin chaps."

    "What do you mean? Did their rescue team manage to make contact with you?"

    "Aye, they did. In fact, I have a recording of the rescue mission. Transmitting now."

    Janáček watched the video feed, his cocky smirk disappearing with gratifying speed.

    "They killed me, Mister Janáček. Why would they do that?"

    "You must have threatened them somehow. Surely they wouldn't..."

    "I was completely unarmed, Mister Janáček. Invigilator Galen Tomar fired at point-blank range. Fortunately, my base had an operational Valkyrie Field. After I had recovered, I was able to subdue the Torgaljin boarding party. I freely admit that they were briefly detained in somewhat uncomfortable conditions, although they were released without having sustained any significant injuries. However, their second attempt on my life had a far less positive outcome."

    I gave Janáček a little while to digest the full import of what he had seen. "From my perspective, that does look like deliberate murder, Mister Janáček. I would like to know who ordered it. My base sensors detected a pair of Cyclops-class submarines prowling around the wreck of the Aurora for quite some time before the boarding party found my base. They were clearly searching for something else, and my presence may have been considered an inconvenience. Now, by a strange coincidence, I knew precisely what they were looking for, because I had already found it. Kindly consult Alterra's archive files, key-word STARFISH. You may have to dig around a little. I'll wait."

    Janáček's brow furrowed. Obviously, he's having a rough time accessing the relevant files, as they were probably encrypted by someone well above his pay grade. One thing's for sure, he won't find this information laying around in a folder labelled 'Shady Deals' or 'Puppies For Orphans Initiative'.

    "With your permission, I can access Alterra's files remotely. To preserve data integrity for evidentiary purposes, all executed commands and processes will be logged, and a full transcript attached to my preliminary case briefing. Do I have your permission to proceed, Mister Janáček?"

    "Absolutely not!" Janáček thundered, slamming his fist on the console. "Are you mad, Selkirk?"

    "Thank you. That is precisely the answer I was hoping for. Never betray the sacred trust that Alterra has placed in you. Unfortunately, Confederation Judicial will be rather more interested in the contents of Alterra's corporate archives than they may have been before. In the spirit of professional courtesy, I'll tell you all about STARFISH, and we'll let the dice fall where they may."

    Janáček's face turned an ashen grey upon hearing this news. If he has more than two neurons to rub together, I conjure he's taking a quick trip into the immediate future to see how this pans out for him. Still, it can't hurt to throw him a wee bone or two. He's only the errand boy.

    "Aurora was carrying a STARFISH autonomous mining rig in her cargo bays. Proscribed Torgaljin technology. Its use is illegal on all K to M-Class worlds, or indeed any other planet capable of sustaining multi-cellular life. Let this sink in, Mister Janáček... An Alterra vessel was chartered to deliver a prohibited Torgaljin Corp resource extraction system to an M1-Class planet. A designated Paradise world that neither corporation has any legal claim to commercially exploit, I might add."

    "Don't be ridiculous, Selkirk. At the time in question, Planet 4546B had no such designation. It was logged as an uninhabited M4 water-world. Even if this STARFISH device was onboard Aurora as you say, you have no concrete proof that it was ever intended to be deployed on that particular world."

    "Yes, you're absolutely right. That statement may have been pure speculation on my part. A perfectly reasonable objection, Sir." I scratched my beard absently, "Still, I can't quite fathom why Torgaljin Corp would construct a hidden research and production facility, particularly if it didn't have access to mineral and organic resources necessary for its continued operation. Obviously, the STARFISH rig was intended for delivery elsewhere. My apologies. I stand corrected."
  • derf213derf213 Join Date: 2016-12-06 Member: 224632Members
    They didn't know it was inhabited? Oh, well that makes sense, nobody went there before. Except for a colony of belters and the CEO of torgaljin. Nobody important.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    I sent another video packet back down the line. With a barely concealed mutter of annoyance, Janáček opened the file and began watching. His sour expression ratcheted down another notch.

    "So, what exactly am I supposed to be looking at? You're the engineer. Talk me through this."

    "This is drone footage taken in Aurora's main hangar bay. As you can see, much of what was in there was either torn loose on impact, or destroyed by secondary explosions sometime thereafter. Some of the expedition's vehicles and power loaders survived, but only because they were stowed in secured docking bays. The tie-downs on all of those shipping containers are rated to withstand a 125-g deceleration, but that wasn't enough to prevent them from being thrown about like toys. Take particular notice of those shipping containers, Mister Janáček. Over two hundred of them, unmarked, except for a tag on each container bearing an alphanumeric manifest ID code. No HAZMAT labels, no clear indication of their contents... Doesn't that strike you as slightly irregular?"

    Janáček snorted irritably. "Standard Alterra shipping containers, presumably intended for in-house use only. If they were being transhipped to another Corp, they'd all be marked accordingly. ICC interstellar transport regulations. Even I know that, Selkirk. If you have a point to make, make it."

    "Here we are. Container Bravo-Fifteen. Support systems, components and commissioning equipment for an AI memory core. Admittedly, there's not much left of it, but that's what usually happens when a nearby container loaded with energetic compounds lights up. In this case, our presumed culprit was Container Charlie-Two. The drone detected heavy traces of Molanex seismic survey charge residue, along with a veritable cocktail of other substances of dubious legality."

    Janáček scowled. "So what? Whatever proof you thought you had has been completely destroyed. Most of those ruptured containers held nothing more than construction materials; titanium ingots, Plasteel, polymers and such. The AI core was obviously a JUNO backup unit. Stop wasting my time!"

    I smiled grimly. "Ah. That's where you're wrong. There's a Torgaljin Corp logo on the core housing. If you look closely, you can just make out the word STARFISH on one of the smaller transit cases."

    "That means absolutely nothing. Legally, you haven't got a leg to stand on, and you know it."

    "If you say so. However, we could forget that this conversation ever happened. You report to your superiors that Aurora and her cargo were completely written off in the crash, and that it's not economically viable to reclaim her materials as salvage. I'm prepared to offer Alterra significant material compensation drawn from the cargo we have onboard. All I'm asking in return is to retain free and clear ownership of Borealis, without let or hindrance. We need this ship."

    "Impossible." Janáček replied coldly. "You're in unlawful possession of Alterra property. You used material stolen from Aurora to construct Borealis. Incidentally, that's known as theft by conversion, Engineer Selkirk. You will hand over the ship precisely as instructed. End of discussion."

    I shook my head sadly. Well, I did make him a genuine offer, and he's refused it. Too bad.

    "One final point, Mister Janáček... Earlier this week, I made contact with Confederation authorities. Apart from receiving a sizeable request for information on the Aurora disaster and various other official documents, I was able to lodge a retrospective salvage claim on the vessel, supported by archival footage recorded during the recovery operation. Given my circumstances at the time and a total absence of competing claims, my bid was upheld without question. Now hear this: Alterra has no valid claim to Aurora, as it was officially listed as missing, presumed lost with all hands. Alterra had precisely two years after the crash in which to mount a salvage expedition, but failed to do so for reasons best known to its Board of Directors. Subsequently, the vessel was struck from Lloyd's Register more than 85 years ago. I am now the sole owner of Aurora, her cargo, stores, equipment and all associated chattels. Be advised that I am willing to offer fair compensation to Alterra Corporation, of an amount stipulated by a Confederation arbitrator upon our return to Terra."

    "You do realise that Alterra will fight you every step of the way, Selkirk." Janáček growled. "You can't possibly compete against the combined resources of an entire corporation. We will bury you."

    I shrugged. "It seems to me that you don't fully understand the finer points of maritime law, Mister Janáček. Are you familiar with the concept of Real Peril, in relation to marine salvage operations?"

    Janáček smiled mirthlessly. "I suppose you're going to lecture me at length on the subject, regardless of whether I am or not. Very well then, enlighten me."

    "Here's the mission footage. The presence of Real Peril during salvage operations significantly modifies the outcome of any decision to award additional payments to the Salvor. As a private individual voluntarily salvaging an unclaimed vessel, I already have assured possession of a major portion of the ship and its cargo, legally free and clear. The automatic termination of my contract with Alterra saw to that. However, the impact and following explosion ruptured all four neutron accelerator silos in the ship's drive room. Radioactive contamination began to threaten all life in an ever-expanding radius. Naturally, it fell to me alone to seal the breaches, but to do that, I had to cross an expanse of ocean heavily populated with hostile marine life forms, with only a Seamoth and rad-suit as protection. Next, I had to gain entry to a wreck burning so fiercely that molten metal posed a constant hazard. After fighting my way past a swarm of aggressive alien carrion feeders, I eventually managed to reach the drive room. Do you see the blue glow in the water, Mister Janáček? That's the signature of Cherenkov radiation. I had to swim in that. Luckily, the rad-suit offered just enough protection for me to get the job done. However, it wasn't much protection against the parasitic life forms also swimming in the flooded silo chamber. As you can see, this was a particularly hazardous operation."

    Janáček sat speechless, overwhelmed by the intensity of the images he had just witnessed.

    "So, does this support my assertion of Real Peril, or are you willing to pursue a course of action that Alterra cannot possibly win? Walk away, Janáček. It's your only choice."
  • derf213derf213 Join Date: 2016-12-06 Member: 224632Members
    Huh not what I was expecting. Either way it's 1 more win for Selkirk
  • TheCreeperCowTheCreeperCow Netherlands Join Date: 2016-05-13 Member: 216716Members
    edited April 2019
    Haha get owned greedy corporation well done Selkirk
  • 0x6A72320x6A7232 US Join Date: 2016-10-06 Member: 222906Members
    The question is which instinct will win out in alterra: self-preservation, or blind greed to claim everything they believe is rightfully theirs.

    Not sure even Janáček has the last word here... he might be overruled or replaced if others are too greedy and think he's not pushing hard enough. Or he might take it upon himself to try to advance his career by gaining profit for Alterra. However, having first hand footage shown to him, maybe not. Perhaps they will try to claim all of that has no impact as it was a different life form (original biological Selkirk instead of the current living copy)?

    Also, people live longer via organ replacements, so it's quite possible some of the original actors (or their direct replacements that know about the affair) that ordered the illegal operations and cover-ups are still in positions of power and will try to make this go away by any means necessary.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited May 2019
    The following morning, I awoke to find Héloise had risen quite some time before me. Her PDA lay on the bedside table; her customary shorthand for leaving me a 'Do Not Disturb' note. To be fair, her third trimester has had some particularly rough days, but she is determined to press on regardless. That's her default Guardian mindset at work, and there's not much I can do to change it. Her first three months of pregnancy were largely uneventful, although I had to put my foot down when it came to playing tag with Stalkers. Up to a point, I agree that it's quite sensible to preserve one's core strength, stamina and reflexes during pregnancy, although there are far less risky exercise partners available. Fortunately, Héloise is equally happy swimming with her pet 'Cuddlefish' Minou in the Shallows containment pool, and that's probably where she is right now.

    After a mug of tea and a leisurely shower, I headed down to the Marine Sciences deck. IANTO has been collating a massive amount of data obtained from our final planetary survey, and he's pretty hyped up about something. Precisely what it is, he wouldn't say. Nothing requiring my immediate presence apparently, although he did casually hint that I might be interested in some of these discoveries. According to the latest update from Gate Control, we still have around 18 hours before our departure, so it wouldn't hurt to swing by IANTO's lab to see what he's found. Hopefully, it will be something a wee bit more awe-inspiring than another slightly different Peeper variant.

    The first creature that IANTO showed me bears a superficial resemblance to a four-eyed Terran penguin, with seal's fur instead of feathers. Same colouration and general basic body shape as a penguin, although its oversized, puffin-like beak is oriented vertically in relation to the rest of its body. I conjured this variation in form would confer significant advantages in terms of streamlining and hunting efficiency underwater, yet they essentially look like normal penguins. Well, at least until one opens its beak.

    Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.

    Body by Darwinian selection, mouth parts by H.P Lovecraft.

    "As you can clearly see Sir, most of the fauna in the polar regions of Manannán have diverged considerably from evolutionary paths established in the planet's temperate zones. Familiar forms such as Peepers, Hoopfish and Bladderfish are still present in this environment as prey species, although there are many remarkable life forms that we have not previously encountered."

    "Aye. It's a bit of a shame we've never managed to explore the planet's polar zones." I said wistfully. "Mind you, we've had more than enough to deal with in own back yard. Still, I conjure it might have been well worth mounting an expedition or two."

    IANTO seemed a mite uncomfortable at this point. "I suspect that an expedition may not have ended well for us, Sir. I launched forty environmental survey probes as we passed over the poles. Only three of them are still operational. All things considered, that is an alarming rate of attrition."

    I gaped in disbelief. "Only three out of forty? Do you know what happened to the lost probes?"

    "Yes, Sir... In most cases." IANTO replied. "I even have imagery of the organisms responsible."

    Some encounters were brutally short, while others actually showed the probes being stalked for several minutes before transmission abruptly ceased. Invariably, our intrepid probes ended their brief spans in a savage maelstrom of teeth, tentacles and claws. However, one probe appears to have been incinerated by a patch of flowers. Giant heat-emitting daisies with translucent petals.

    If this isn't an obvious hint that a planet doesn't want you around anymore, I don't know what is.

    Of the three surviving probes, one revealed a truly terrifying discovery. A Leviathan-class creature called an 'Iceworm'. Over 90 metres in length, capable of melting a path through compacted ice for itself as easily as an earthworm travels through loose soil. I watched this behemoth ambush and devour a pack of Snow Stalkers (a furred, quadruped variant of the marine Stalker) within seconds. A supreme ambush predator in every respect. These creatures would forever deny us the frozen surface of Manannán, while lesser Titans jealously protect its depths. Mankind will never hold dominion there. We have been merely tolerated thus far, and our welcome has plainly worn out.
  • TigerTomTigerTom Join Date: 2018-02-27 Member: 238363Members
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited May 2019
    "IANTO, you mentioned that there are three probes left. What happened to the other two?"

    IANTO tapped the terminal keypad. The holographic image shifted, revealing the drone's slow passage down what appears to be an undulating silvery tunnel. I have a fair idea of what this strange and obviously organic structure resembles, although given the remarkable diversity of life on Manannán, I'm reluctant to volunteer any insights on what it might be. In this case, I gracefully defer to IANTO's broader knowledge of the planet's marine life. For all I know, it could be a colony creature of some kind, or something vaguely like a Terran salp. It could well be Manannán's version of a giant sea-squirt. Even so, I just had to ask. Call it morbid curiosity.

    "Is that probe where I think it is?"

    "I'm afraid so, Sir." IANTO replied morosely. "Probe Sigma has been ingested, and it's currently travelling along the digestive tract of a highly aggressive Leviathan-class organism. Unfortunately, the probe was ambushed almost immediately upon entering the water. Proximity sensors triggered the cameras, although its threat avoidance system was unable to respond in time. At least the probe was able to capture a few clear images of the creature before it was consumed."

    A pitch-black shape rocketed out of the Stygian darkness below, too fast for human eyes to follow. Only a ghostly green haze of phosphorescence around the creature betrayed its rapid ascent, a pale glow of luminescent plankton churned violently about in its wake. As it closed in on the probe, I could barely make out its angular, arrow-shaped head and elongated body. Its mouth parts are formed into a broad vertical slit located on the underside of its head; a chasm of nightmares, wreathed with cruel, needle-sharp teeth. Seven pairs of mandibles surrounding the creature's mouth suddenly unfurled, spreading wide to capture and engulf the probe. It never stood a chance. Total event duration: Three seconds. The Shadow Leviathan is an extremely efficient hunter.

    "Surprisingly, the probe's external casing is still intact." IANTO remarked. "According to the onboard chemical analyser, the creature's digestive mechanism is enzymatic rather than acidic, meaning that there is a strong probability that Probe Sigma might survive this encounter. Conversely, it may not."

    I laid a reassuring hand on IANTO's shoulder. "Fear not for Sigma, my friend. It too shall pass."

    My HUD's time display flashed 07:30. Daylight's burning. Time to coax Héloise out of the pool.
    "I'll catch up with you at breakfast, mate. Jens Halvorsen and his bridge crew will be docking in 25 minutes. If you could round up our pack of jokers, we'll meet you in the Zeppelin Lounge. Thanks."

    After collecting a hot drink from the autogalley for Héloise, I entered the airlock leading to the Shallow Reef habitat. I'm rather proud of this side-project of mine. A self-contained oceanic microcosm, specifically designed to support a full range of creatures normally found in this biome. This structure contains five megalitres of Manannán's seawater; roughly twice the volume of an Olympic swimming pool. The 'seafloor' has been sculpted from nanocrete to simulate the natural contours of a notional section of the reef, and covered with an overlay of the planet's mineral sands. So far, the results are highly encouraging. Various sessile organisms such as corals, shrooms and seaweeds have already established a solid foothold in there, and most of the higher life forms are acclimating nicely to their new environment. There's still a wee bit of tweaking required to achieve a perfectly balanced and self-sustaining ecology, although it's early days for this experiment.

    The Shallow Reef habitat has been built for a far grander purpose, other than an exotic hydrotherapy pool for Héloise... Not that I begrudge her a single second spent in here, of course. At this advanced stage of pregnancy, any relief from constant back pain is most welcome. IANTO initially suggested using one of the ship's microgravity chambers to relieve the worst of her symptoms, although it only took one zero-g therapy session to convince IANTO that his idea was a complete non-starter. Pre-natal nausea.

    It's not just a queasy sensation in a mummy's tummy. Trust me.

    Hydrotherapy is the way to go. I designed a lightweight diving kit specifically for Héloise to use, and she has taken to this notion like a... Well, like a pregnant Guardian to water. One session every morning, and one just before retiring. This regimen works like a charm on her physical discomfort, and it goes a long way to smoothing out any ups and downs that she might be experiencing. Left to her own devices, she would simply close up and tough it out. I'd rather see Héloise continue to deal with this experience on her own terms, without wrapping her in cotton wool. She needs this level of challenge and excitement as an emotional outlet. It's as vital to her as oxygen.

    There are subtle signs that Héloise is making some concessions to impending motherhood, such as allowing her own hair to grow back. When I asked why, she explained that any child in the company of a Guardian often becomes the focus of unwelcome attention. Since only the wealthy can afford the services of a Guardian, anyone seen in their care might be worth snatching. If someone is desperate enough, they will probably give it a go. However, most of those encounters end badly for any would-be abductors. Occasionally, some do get lucky. Héloise's caution is entirely justified, particularly in light of recent developments involving Alterra. It's still the same old 'Verse.

    After climbing a companionway, I reached the hab's perimeter catwalks. Rather than walk around the entire circumference at ground level searching for Héloise, I conjured it would be far quicker to locate her from above. First off, I filtered out reflection patterns distorting the water's surface. This also cancelled out the glare from overhead floodlights. I cycled my visual input through various wavelengths of light until I found one that gave the best clarity, then commenced a full sweep of the tank. This wavelength displays virtual 'vapour trails', residual turbulence left behind by the tank's occupants as they move through the water, a mass of data represented by tangled lines criss-crossing my field of vision. More aggressive filtering is required. Adjust for time-scaled density, reject any track below a mass-based threshold, and then selectively remove all previously recorded patterns. Voila! Only one track remains, spiralling and looping in a distinctively purposeful fashion.

    Héloise emerged from a thicket of Creepvine at speed, thankfully without a Stalker in hot pursuit.

    I took a moment to admire Héloise as she sped through the water, her jade-green Skinsuit rendered opalescent by the false colours of turbulent flow. Shoulder-length hair flowed behind her as liquid fire, creating its own distinct aura. She reduced speed, angling the suit's wrist-mounted thrusters to induce a slow, spiralling roll. I stood entranced, as if seeing my beloved manifest in her true form. A Polynesian sea-goddess, her hair and its pearly aura spreading like the wings of a stingray, an unconscious image reinforced by the deadly length of her musubime trailing behind.

    Behold this miraculous woman. With her at my side, mighty deeds shall be done.
  • RockaBen99RockaBen99 Join Date: 2019-03-26 Member: 251971Members
    I'm sorry if I just missed it earlier, but what is this 'Guardian' thing in the latest post?
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited May 2019
    I'm sorry if I just missed it earlier, but what is this 'Guardian' thing in the latest post?

    See Section 11 of this thread, August 2016 entry. Near the bottom of the page.

    Guardians are an elite corps of bodyguards based in the Sol system's Asteroid Belt. Usually employed by Belter industrial magnates or noble houses throughout the Terran Confederation. Highly skilled in unarmed combat, firearms and blade weapons. A Guardian's signature concealed weapon is the musubime, a cyberlink-controlled extendable (artificial) pigtail tipped with an elaborate pointed metal endpiece. Can be used as a stiletto-like piercing weapon, a strangling noose, snare or morningstar-type impact weapon.

    Héloise is the great-granddaughter of Marguerit Maida, former bodyguard of Paal (n.k.a 'Paul') Torgalijin.

  • RockaBen99RockaBen99 Join Date: 2019-03-26 Member: 251971Members
    edited May 2019
    Bugzapper wrote: »
    I'm sorry if I just missed it earlier, but what is this 'Guardian' thing in the latest post?

    See Section 11 of this thread, August 2016 entry. Near the bottom of the page.

    Guardians are an elite corps of bodyguards based in the Sol system's Asteroid Belt. Usually employed by Belter industrial magnates or noble houses throughout the Terran Confederation. Highly skilled in unarmed combat, firearms and blade weapons. A Guardian's signature concealed weapon is the musubime, a cyberlink-controlled extendable (artificial) pigtail tipped with an elaborate pointed metal endpiece. Can be used as a stiletto-like piercing weapon, a strangling noose, snare or morningstar-type impact weapon.

    Héloise is the great-granddaughter of Marguerit Maida, former bodyguard of Paal (n.k.a 'Paul') Torgalijin.

    Ah, thank you :)
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members

    Héloise is the granddaughter of Marguerit Maida.

    Sorry. My bad.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    By the time I reached the deck level of the habitat pool, Héloise had exited the water and was already halfway through stripping off her Skinsuit. I passed her a towelling robe left draped over the pool's railing. After donning the robe, she hungrily eyed the bowl of Creepvine miso soup I carried.

    "Is that for me? Merci, Chérie." She said, gratefully cupping her hands around the bowl for its warmth. "I'm sorry, Alexander. I lost track of how long I've been in here. Are we going to be late?"

    "Not by much, but you'll have to put your skates on once you've finished your soup and showered. Halvorsen's shuttle docks in fifteen, and I need to have a quick word with him in private."

    "No problem, my dear Captain. I'll be ready in five." Héloise replied breezily.

    We made it to the hangar deck with a few minutes to spare. Borealis announced a general alert over the local PA, simultaneously activating the hangar's warning strobes to signal that the outer doors are about to open. As Borealis is equipped with our version of Precursor fluidic shields, there is no need to depressurize the compartment beforehand, although all personnel working in the hangar bay are still required to evacuate into air-locked safety bunkers during flight deck operations.

    Out of curiosity, I tuned into the comms chatter between the inbound shuttle and our traffic control.

    "Borealis ATC, this is shuttle Ogun Onire aligned on final approach. Awaiting terminal guidance."

    "Roger that, Ogun. Capture successful, link is secure. We have your conn. Reeling you in now."

    Under remote control, the shuttle approached the fluidic shield's boundary almost cautiously, its mass now moving slowly enough to slide smoothly through the energy barrier unimpeded. In case you're wondering, I've ran a few simulations of what happens when an object suddenly increases its velocity halfway through the shield, and the results aren't pretty. Even less so, when that molecular shear effect intersects with a living organism.

    "Attention on deck!"

    As Captain Halvorsen reached the foot of the shuttle's ramp, DIGBY placed a boatswain's call whistle to his lips and smartly piped him aboard. Caught entirely off-guard by this archaic mark of respect, Halvorsen abruptly broke his stride, snapped to attention and saluted.

    I stepped forward and returned his salute. "Welcome aboard, Sir. I sincerely apologise for the last-minute invitation. Borealis is entirely at your disposal."

    Halvorsen smiled warmly. "Thank you, Captain Selkirk. I hoped we might catch up again before your departure. Word of warning, though... I have a small but extremely awkward favour to ask of you."

    "Whatever it is, consider it done. Anything for an old mate, Jens." I grinned.

    "Hold on, man! I haven't told you what the favour is yet." Halvorsen lowered his voice conspiratorially, "I've got a couple of NPAs onboard, and I want them off my ship. Bad for morale."

    "I can see how that might be a problem on a long haul. Nothing worse than a non-positive attitude in a Spacer." I agreed. "How about arranging a tragic airlock malfunction once we're underway?"

    "I wish." Halvorsen muttered. "To be honest, they're a pair of oxygen thieves. The fire's gone out of their bellies, and they just want to go home. One of them is a regular sick bay fixture, and the other is an industrial-strength pain in the arse. No-one wants to work with them as offsiders."

    "Done deal. I'll take them off your hands." I replied amiably. "They'll be working off their passage too. I'll make gorram certain of that. There's precious little sympathy for slackers and malingerers here."

    "Good man. I knew I could count on you. I'll transfer their articles to your PDA, officially seconding them to Borealis for the voyage. At least they'll still be on the payroll until their boots hit dirt."

    I shifted my feet awkwardly. "Um... I wouldn't be too sure of that, Jens. I believe that I may have slightly blotted my copy-book with Alterra when I told them to take a running jump. That shyster Janáček wanted me to hand over Borealis and her entire cargo, but the Corp has no legally enforceable claim to her. Salvage Law 101."

    "Rightly so," Halvorsen agreed. "You are planning to compensate Alterra, aren't you?"

    "Absolutely. One-tenth of Aurora's original raw material value, or a suitable sum determined by arbitration. I'm playing this strictly by the book, making it nigh impossible for Alterra to contest the legitimacy of my claim in a court of law. However, that's not what has me concerned. There's a very strong possibility that Alterra might pull a dirty one on us before we reach Terra."
  • TheCreeperCowTheCreeperCow Netherlands Join Date: 2016-05-13 Member: 216716Members
    YAY new story snippet
  • RockaBen99RockaBen99 Join Date: 2019-03-26 Member: 251971Members
    Bugzapper wrote: »
    There's a very strong possibility that Alterra might pull a dirty one on us before we reach Terra."
    Am I surprised? No.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    Halvorsen nodded grimly. "Not directly, although it's likely they'll do it through a quiet back-channel. Alterra does have its squeaky-clean public image to uphold. My best guess is that Torgaljin Corp might act as a discreet intermediary for hiring one of the off-world merc outfits. Plausible deniability. Any... adverse outcome would be perfectly untraceable to either party, of course."

    I reached out to shake Jens' hand, deftly palming off the storage chip I had held concealed.

    "Precisely. That's why I've prepared this Mempak. If we don't make it back to Terra, hand this over to Confederation Judicial. There's more than enough dirt in there to bury both Corps. Murder, piracy, collusion with a declared competitor, conspiracy to exploit the resources of an unclaimed M-class planet, unlawful detention and presumed torture of sentient alien life forms, illegal research and manufacture of alien pathogens. That's a fair catalogue of sins. Let's hope they won't add to it."

    Given the transit times involved, I conjure that we could be jumped anywhere between Procyon and the Kuiper Belt. That's a fair span of unfriendly space to traverse. If we can make it to Tannhäuser Gate in one piece, Confederation patrols might provide a measure of deterrence and hopefully, some active protection. To be honest, I'm not counting on anyone springing to our defence if things do turn ugly. No skipper worth their salt would charge blindly into a firefight without knowing precisely who the villains are, although the line of distinction can be a wee bit vague in some sectors. That seemingly defenceless long-hauler being mobbed by a swarm of Colonial fighters might be infested with Kharaa or the fighters could be stolen, piloted by a local Jacker clan. Either way, if you make a bad judgement call on a snap decision, you lose. You never really know until the dust has settled. Even though it sounds utterly callous, the most sensible thing to do is hang back at a safe distance and wait for a reasonably convincing distress call.

    If push does come to shove, there's little doubt Borealis would tear any would-be aggressor a new one, then fly clean through the hole. In addition to ten mass-driver turrets and enhanced shielding based on Precursor technology, she also carries six phased-plasma cannons and a radial array of hypervelocity sand-casters to confound any inbound missiles. That's roughly equivalent to a Confederation cruiser's armament. Naturally, we're legally obliged to disarm most of these weapons before we enter the Terran Core sector. Asteroid deflection systems only. Civilian vessels armed with military-grade ship killers are generally frowned upon in civilized space.

    Our standard operating procedure is to treat all unknown ships in visual range as potentially hostile. If our hailing calls go unanswered, the alert level in Borealis will jump up a notch. If a vessel maintains an approach vector without clearly stating its intentions, it will be automatically targeted. Our red-zone perimeter is set at 50 kilometres. Once a ship crosses that boundary without making any attempt to establish communications with Borealis, its crew may even have the momentary satisfaction of firing the first shot. If I'm feeling particularly charitable at the time, I might advise them to evacuate their vessel before we return the compliment.

    As we walked back to our table, Héloise cast a critical eye over my breakfast selection.

    "Isn't that a bit over the top? I can live with the orange juice, but steak and eggs for breakfast?"

    "Not at all, Dear Heart. In fact, it's a traditional astronaut's breakfast. Pure protein, low residue."

    "Hmm... Far too heavy for my liking. Still, I wouldn't mind some of those mushrooms on toast."

    "Nae problem, Lass. Consider it done." I set my tray down on the nearest table, then headed back to the autogalley. After a couple of steps, I turned around suddenly. As expected, I caught Héloise with a stolen slice of mushroom raised halfway to her lips. Our eyes locked. She smirked triumphantly, popping the morsel into her mouth without the slightest flicker of remorse.

    There's an electric feel to the atmosphere in The Zeppelin Lounge this morning. Conversations are loud, lively and for the most part, good-natured. A rough headcount reveals that almost 80 per cent of the ship's company are dining here today, rather than the customary anarchic scattering of folks throughout the ship at this time of day. I conjure many of them are here to witness a parting of the ways between Halvorsen and me, indisputable proof that the voyage home is about to begin.

    Halfway through a second mug of tea, I activated my PDA. "Right Jens, let's take a gander at those poor wee bairns you've dumped on my doorstep." Our first contestant is Mohan Chandra, a first-year engineering cadet. Fresh out of Alterra's sausage machine... Sorry, 'Mercantile Fleet Academy', he signed on with the Carl Sagan, presumably aiming to fast-track his career.

    With a solid academic record behind him, Mohan stood a reasonable chance of making his way up the totem pole. Unfortunately, he wasn't entirely prepared for the harsh realities that beset a lowly Gremlin on a daily basis. When you're the new face in ship's company, all past achievements are automatically reset to zero. You may have been a stellar performer on the ship systems simulators dirt-side, but that doesn't count for a Gasopod's fart out here in The Black. The very least that is expected of a Gremlin is to do what you're told, and do it to the best of your ability. Sure, it's often menial work of the worst kind at first, but a willingness to get your hands dirty occasionally will significantly improve your lot in life. A simple truth that Mohan has apparently failed to grasp.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited August 2019
    My best guess is that the allure of turd-herding was entirely lost on Mohan.

    Every Gremlin gets lumbered with waste-processing systems maintenance at the start of their first tour. Let's get something straight here; if you suspect this is a simple case of senior techs hazing the new kids, think again. There is no actual malice in assigning WP jobs to the newest hands on deck. 'Dirty Duty' is indeed a rite of passage, but not for the reasons you'd expect. This is how canny supervisors test the true mettle of junior crew members. If youngsters complete all of their assigned tasks promptly, diligently and without undue complaint, that is generally enough to satisfy most department heads. After a few months of Black Hand routine, most Gremlins catch on to what's actually happening and carry their share accordingly. Once a Gremlin has a proven reputation for reliability, their daily tasks become more intellectually satisfying and generally take place in far more salubrious surroundings.

    As an aside, all Alterra employees are contractually entitled to take fifteen 'mental health days' off per Solar year. It's standard practice for most folks to take at least one or two days off per month; an extremely valuable fringe benefit for anyone working in a high-stress environment. To be perfectly candid, Engineering isn't a particularly stressful occupation. It either works, or it doesn't. Occasionally, there might be an odd flurry of frantic activity around Hull, Reactor and Life Support systems, but for the most part, it's a fairly cushy job. However, when an individual manages to burn through all fifteen days in four months and he/she works in Engineering, eyebrows will be raised.

    After running out of MHDs, Mohan started dreaming up an increasingly outlandish catalogue of sick bay calls, including such perennial favourites as: Allergic reactions to a staggering variety of chemically inert materials, peripheral nerve damage caused by manual data entry during stock-takes and crippling migraines, supposedly triggered by working two decks above heavily shielded field coils. Personally, I wouldn't have cited a slightly dusty ventilation duct as the source of an alleged Salmonella infection, but Mohan went for it anyway. If nothing else, I'd say he's successfully managed to elevate pure and applied slacking to a fine art form. Secretly, I'm rather impressed.

    Not entirely sure how he slipped through the V-K test during his Deep Range suitability assessment, but what the hell... I'll give that wee roaster one last chance to reshape himself on the way home.

    Without even opening the second passenger's dossier, I know precisely who it refers to. There's only one person who qualifies as an 'industrial-strength pain in the arse' aboard the Carl Sagan, and I've already met her...

    Doktor Radka Zelenka.

    So here we are, left saddled with a unmotivated Gremlin hypochondriac and a confirmed misanthrope with an uncanny talent for constructing nuclear munitions.
    Could be worse, I suppose.

    "Aye, they'll do." I muttered, now completely resigned to an 'interesting' voyage home. "Borealis?"

    "Your orders, Captain?" The ship replied briskly.

    "We have two late arrivals waiting aboard the Sagan. Please send a shuttle to collect them."

    "Acknowledged, Sir. Shuttle systems have been reconfigured for telepresence piloting. Pre-flight test sequence successfully completed. All systems are nominal. ETA Carl Sagan, fifteen minutes."

    "Thank you, Borealis." I turned to Jens. "You might want to give your runaways a wee nudge. I fancy they'll be needing to pack and say farewell to their shipmates, so they'd better get a move on."

    "That won't take too long. It's not as if either of them has a fan club." Halvorsen observed drily.
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    Halvorsen glanced at his PDA. "Zero nine-fifteen. Well, my friend... We'd better be shoving off. If you're still planning to make that launch window at twenty-three hundred, I reckon you might want to flash up your boilers sometime soon. Only an old hand's suggestion, of course." He grinned.

    I shrugged. "Plenty of time. No need to rush off just yet, Jens. Borealis stands ready in all respects, and she's straining like a greyhound in the slips. After a month and a half twiddling our collective thumbs up here, we're down to running damage control drills purely for shits and giggles."

    Halvorsen roared with laughter. "Half your luck, Selkirk! We're stuck out here for another six months until construction of the outbound Gate is complete. Fair credit though, your assistance with resources shaved at least three months off the project... And for that, I am extremely grateful."

    "That reminds me; if you ever need to top up your deuterium reserves, the refinery on Skull Island is still in operational order. There's even a dormant JUNO node in residence, ready to take care of the donkey work. Now, a word of caution. Tread softly while you're down there. Wherever possible, restrict all surface and underwater activity to a one kilometre radius around the island. Beyond that boundary, I can't vouch for the safety of your crew."

    "Fair enough." Halvorsen replied. "But what happens if we have to evacuate the Sagan? Highly unlikely, but anything could happen out here. I can't see us lasting too long when we're effectively trapped on your island, penned in by bloody Xeno-krakens. As soon as our rations run out... Pffft."

    "Great minds think alike, Jens. I've considered that possibility. Stand by to receive a data burst."

    Halvorsen's PDA screen glowed. "Incoming message. Sender: Alexander Selkirk."

    "There you go, Laddie. Full command activation authority for The Broch. Just transmit that data packet to reactivate the JUNO node on Skull Island, and you're halfway home to surviving in style. Your authentication phrase is 'Climb Mount Seleya'. JUNO will dispatch a Cyclops to collect your crew, although you might want to fabricate a few more subs to speed up the transfer. All I ask is that your gang o' hoolies wipe their boots afore stepping inside, and switch off the lights when you leave... Oh, and absolutely no loud parties after 21:00. It sets off the neighbours something fierce."

    Halvorsen chuckled. "Now I know you're pulling my leg. There isn't a creature on that planet capable of breaching your defence system down there. We'll be as safe as houses in that fortress of yours."

    I shook my head. "I wouldn't be too sure of that, Jens. As far as I can tell, the planet's polar regions are definite no-go zones. There's beasties down there that would make me think twice about taking them on. In fact, I seriously doubt that we've seen the very worst that Manannán could throw at us, and we're in no hurry to find out otherwise. We dropped 40 recon probes as Borealis passed over the ice caps, and only three survived. Hostile wildlife accounted for most of those losses. I'd say that's a pretty emphatic warning in anyone's language."

    Halvorsen eyed me shrewdly. "Coming from anyone else, I'd say they were trying to hide something down there. Whatever your secret is, there's probably a reason to keep it out of Alterra's hands."

    I grinned. "No secrets here, mate. IANTO, please show Captain Halvorsen exactly what happened to our recon probes. Replay at 25 per cent of normal speed, five second intervals between each clip."
  • TheCreeperCowTheCreeperCow Netherlands Join Date: 2016-05-13 Member: 216716Members
    Hey could we get another snippet? Consider this a BUMP
  • BugzapperBugzapper Australia Join Date: 2015-03-06 Member: 201744Members
    edited October 2019
    Halvorsen shook his head in disbelief. "A flower destroyed your probe? You're certain about that?"

    "Absolutely, Sir." IANTO replied. "Warmth is a scarce commodity in the planet's polar regions. As far as I am able to determine, this particular species uses heat to attract warm-blooded life forms to the ice caverns where it grows. It extracts nutrients from animal waste products, conveyed to an extensive root system by the melt-water that collects around its base. I suspect that the plant reacted to the probe's proximity in its usual manner, and when the probe refused to move closer or excrete anything useful, the plant dramatically increased its thermal output in an attempt to carbonize the probe." IANTO paused, smiling faintly, "Any nutrient is acceptable nutrient... All donations gratefully received. Although this may seem like an inefficient feeding mechanism viewed strictly in terms of stored energy expenditure, the plant can also sustain itself by photosynthesis if necessary. Remarkably sophisticated behaviour for a presumably non-sentient life form."

    I noticed that a sizeable crowd had began gathering around our dining booth. "IANTO, please recast the playback to all display terminals in here. Seems like there's a fair bit of interest in the beasties we're leaving behind. No great loss, though. Confederation EPA wouldn't be too pleased if anything from this rogue's gallery broke loose on Terra. We've more than enough wee villains aboard as it is."

    Halvorsen shot me a bewildered look. "What? You're taking viable alien life forms back to Terra? Don't even think of it, Alexander. Borealis won't make it past the Outer Rim enforcement patrols."

    I grinned broadly. "Oh yes, we will. The EPA knows precisely what we're carrying. I've already told them about our live cargo, albeit in a roundabout sort of way... At first. You know that section in the ICC quarantine, import and transit clearance docs that concern organic cargo? Well, I was feeling thoroughly cheesed-off by the time I had ploughed through every scrap of red tape leading up to that point, and framed a suitably terse response to the question 'Do you intend to transport any organic matter of non-terrestrial origin (tissue samples, body fluids, other prepared biological specimens or organisms preserved in stasis) through Core Worlds space?' Naturally, I answered YES."

    "That wouldn't have gone down too well." Halvorsen muttered. "You're lucky we aren't surrounded by a fleet of Frontiersmen howling for your blood. Remember what happened to the Auriga?"

    "Aye, point taken. There's one significant point of difference, Jens... We aren't a Black Ops outfit, and we're not blindly tinkering with an already uncontrollable xeno-bioweapon. As you probably know, Terra's oceanic biomass is now approximately fifteen per cent of what it used to be prior to the mid-21st. Century. Thousands of species went extinct after their food chains collapsed. Increasingly frequent blooms of toxic algae are gradually whittling down the survivors, and there's not much anyone can do to prevent a total ecological crash. It's down to a basic lack of available resources and realistic solutions. The speed and scale of devastation has simply overwhelmed the Confederation's capacity to deal with it. However, when I explained to the EPA that Borealis is effectively carrying the nucleus of an alien marine ecosystem taken from multiple biomes, I cheerfully obliged their curiosity by providing complete genome sequences and behavioral profiles for all species of flora and fauna currently held onboard. That certainly caught their attention."

    Héloise snorted in disgust. "Pfui! As if dying oceans weren't enough warning! We Belters have always taken better care of what we have, since we can't always afford to replace it. Terran Confed has been milking The Belt for its resources since my grandmother was a girl, and they practically gave us little more than beads and mirrors in return. Cochons! - Why aren't we building our new oceans in The Belt?" She turned toward me, her voice as cold as midnight on Pluto. "Alexander, are you absolutely sure the Terrans are worth saving? Convince me."
  • TheCreeperCowTheCreeperCow Netherlands Join Date: 2016-05-13 Member: 216716Members
    Thank you keep up the good work love reading the story
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