St John's College, Johannesburg, South Africa: eSports, boardgaming, wargaming & all mindsports. Affiliated to Mind Sports South Africa
The Spacetrucker Chronicles: Chapter I
Click. The emergency lights slowly brightened, humming softly.
“What the fok just happened?” asked Petrus.
“I don’t know!” said Winry, frustrated at the interruption of her ogling.
“Something’s not right” added Jay.
“The state of Human/Mutant relations!” exclaimed Blanco.
The lights in the room flickered back to life as the emergency lights died away. Caeln burst into the room, sweat dripping down his tumorous forehead. “Get ready now!” he shouted. “We have to be going yesterday brothers!”
The room was afire with everyone scrambling to their places. The only one left unfazed was Blanco, who stood spouting Mutie pride factoids.
“Did you know a Mutie hasn’t been elected to a position of prominence since Arnold Parker?”
Caeln ran up to Blanco and shook him vigorously. “MOVE!!! We’ve been pulled out of FTL. GET TO THE SHIP!!”
Everyone ran to the ship, a massive frigate accompanied by a fighter. Jukuren ran to the cockpit, while Jay got into the fighter. Everyone else ran in and took a seat in the cockpit area. Petrus’s eyes caught sight of a turret and he quickly abandoned his seat to man it.
“Safety is important” said Blanco, strapping himself into his seat. “Where’s Caeln?”
“He stayed behind in the carrier,” said Doc. “Something about dealing with damage control.”
“Nooo! Come back brother!” shouted Blanco, but his cries were lost in the roar of the fighter’s engines as it sped ahead. Shortly after, Jukuren eased the frigate out of the hangar and into the empty void of space.
Flying over the carrier, the bounty hunters could see a massive hole torn in its starboard segment.
“Scanning now” said Jukuren over the intercom. “Nothing. Man the turrets and hold fire till I give the word.”
Silence, save for the crackling of voices over the comm as the rest of the bounty hunter squads readied themselves.
“Hou julle oë oop…” said Petrus, his finger brushing against the turret’s trigger.
“Is anyone there?” came Jukuren’s voice through the comm. “This is Jukuren Shita. Is there anyone there?”
Everyone waited. The fighter circled the frigate, scanning. Eyes peeled, everyone waited for the indication of hostile presence. Absolute silence, save for the white noise of the comm.
“The suspense is fokken killing me!” exclaimed Petrus, tearing through the silence like the sudden rip of one’s trousers.
Suddenly, as if in answer to Petrus, a massive flash of white light exploded from the carrier, nearly blinding the bounty hunters.
“Eeeep!” screamed Blanco.
“Get ready to fire, but hold unti-“
The flash of missile fire erupted from the fighter. The missiles sped off towards the carrier, now too bright to even look at.
“Why the fok did you fire!?” screamed Petrus over the comm at Jay.
“Friendly would have contacted in the comms” responded Jay.
“Friendly might have broken comms! Fokken domkop!”
“Shoot it again!” added Blanco, enthusiastically.
“Nee! Luister na Jukuren! Hy’s die kaptein!” shouted Petrus.
“Broken Comms would fly a flag of ‘peace and love’ to let us know they were friendly” said Blanco.
“If you don’t stop swearing at me the next missile will be aimed at you!” retorted Jay.
“Ek sal jy mo-“
“Everyone calm down!” interrupted Jukuren.
The bright light began to die down, revealing the carrier to be covered in flames and torn in two. Just in case his trigger-happy crewmates were right, Petrus aimed the turret at the carrier.
“Jay, can you go in a bit closer to get a better look?” asked Jukuren over the comm.
The fighter departed the frigate and began its approach. Pretty quickly, it disappeared from view.
“But hold fire. There may be survivors” he added.
It was hard to believe there would be any survivors left in the wreckage. The ship seemed as dead, hemorrhaging oxygen and spewing flames into the void.
“So…” ventured Petrus. “Wat nou?”
“We’re in a segment of uncharted space. Nothing here except us and the carrier” responded Winry.
“I suggest we fly in that direction” suggested Blanco, pointing aimlessly into space. He was ignored.
“We need to take a look,” suggested Jukuren at last. “A three man team will board the carrier and look for survivors. The rest will stay on the ship with me.”
“I’ll keep the space clear,” came Jay’s voice on the comm. “Who’s boarding.”
“I’ll go” said Petrus.
“Me too” said Doc.
“I’ll go” said Blanco. “I have 1st aid.”
“And I” responded Petrus, “have an axe.”
Jukuren maneuvered the ship towards the carrier, while Blanco, Doc and Petrus suited up. The suits were hot and uncomfortable, but preferable to the fate that awaits any who should dare brave the blackness of space without protection.
The mutants entered the airlock as the frigate crawled smoothly into position, extending its docking tube into the carrier’s airlock like the mating of two great metal leviathans. The artificial gravity of the carrier was not functional and so the three men inched their way through the docking tube, clunking their Magboots™ on the metal floor.
“Ground team, move out!” said Petrus.
“You mean space team” corrected Blanco.
“Team mutant squad gang, whatever!” spat Petrus, annoyed.
“Go go mutant rangers!” let out Doc, squeeing like a fourteen-year old fangirl.
“Keep us posted” said Jukuren, leaning back in his pilot’s chair. Without Blanco or Petrus, the frigate seemed much quieter, and the Ikk’tar felt the compulsion to enjoy the tranquility.
“Petrus in” came Petrus’s unmistakable accent through the comm, “nothing so far. Over.”
A few minutes passed. Jukuren’s sense of calm had quickly developed into a sense of restlessness. Winry had left the cockpit and Jukuren found himself to be bored out of his reptilian skull. He sat at the edge of his seat, waiting for the ground team’s response.
“What’s happening!?” came Jay’s voice over the comm. He too sounded restless.
The crackling on the comm heralded Petrus’s response. “We’re checking the engine room. Over”
“Roger that,” responded Jukuren, “keep us posted. In case the comms break.”
“Ja, ja” came Petrus’s muttered breath over the comm.
Once again, the cockpit was plunged into an unbearable silence.
Hours, days, possibly even years passed. Well, for Jukuren at least. Time is relative, after all. For the rest of the universe, it was about a minute. Eventually, the comm exploded in a burst of sound.
“The signal…is…brking…up…..cnt…hr………..lo?……ear us?……”
Jukuren panicked. The signal was breaking up.
“Are you alright?” asked Jukuren nervously over the comm. No response. “Can you hear me!?”
“Ground team? Are you in trouble?!”
The crackling suddenly vanished and Petrus’s voice reemerged.
“Ja, we’re fine. Just mucking about.” Petrus’s subsequent laugh echoed through Jukuren’s earpiece.
Jukuren filled with rage. “Please get serious! Don’t do that again or I will leave you.”
Petrus continued laughing, but soon stopped. “Oh shit….comms….breaking…for real this time….grrgkdfdfgdhbfhsdfgfghsdgfjhsdgfvh…”
“Stop it! It’s not funny.”
White noise. This time the real kind, not the kind you get by covering the microphone with your hand and blowing on it.
“Ground team? Come in.”
The silence persisted, broken only by the sudden sound of Caramelldansen booming through the comm.
“Whoops,” came Winry’s voice over the comm, “meant to pair my phone with my speakers not the comm.”
“Keep the comms clean,” came Jukuren’s irritated voice, “the ground team is not responding.”
“What’s happening with Jay?” asked Winry.
“He’s found an old satellite. Doesn’t seem to be working, but he’s investigating. Man the turret, just in case.”
“You mean woman the turret” said Winry, strolling nonchalantly towards the turret.
More waiting. The only thing that kept the cockpit from complete silence was the soft sound of dramatic music leaving Winry’s speaker in the room next door. Jukuren stared at the intercom, willing it to make a noise, for the ground team to give some sort of progress report. But it was to no avail.
That is, until the comm did suddenly make a noise. It was faint and not coherent, but it was a noise.
“Winry, can you clear up this signal?”
The sound grew louder, and words – Petrus’s words – were starting to appear amidst the background of white noise.
“Ground team, respond!” shouted Jukuren at the intercom.
Another voice, this time that of Doc. “I wan…y…ommy!”
“I am ready to depart” said Jukuren. “What’s going on?”
Petrus’s voice, once again.
Soon followed by Blanco’s.
“Ground team! Are you okay?”
“Winry, get the comms working!”
“There’s nothing wrong on our end” she barked back.
The stream of incoherent words continued.
“……..grgrgfgdfgfl……….ello?……………..yone he………..” came Petrus’s voice.
“Ground team, get to the ship now!”
Blanco’s voice surfaced.
Jay’s voice too became incoherent.
Jukuren, perhaps not aware of the possibility that the ground team could not hear him, or perhaps simply finding nothing else to keep himself entertained, kept shouting through the comm.
“Ground team, get to the ship. I repeat. Ground team, to the ship. I repeat. The ship! Get to it, I repeat! I repeat! Ground ship get to the team! I ground repeat ship to the team get!!”
“Shut up!” came Winry’s annoyed scream from the other room.
Laser fire was visible for a second near the hangar bay door. Jukuren broke from his babbling and resumed his captaining role.
“Winry, man the door. Be ready in case of hostiles.”
As if to confirm Jukuren’s fears, a scream echoed through the comm.
Winry rushed to the door; her shotgun fully loaded and at hand.
Petrus’s voice once again surfaced, slightly more coherent.
“Ground team, where are you?”
“….ning corn….ursuit of n…..”
“……..man…….unin…….” Blanco’s voice added.
Jukuren was confused. “Unicorn in pursuit of what?”
White noise was his only answer.
“Well shit,” remarked Winry.
Suddenly, Jay’s voice, completely clear, sounded through the comm. “Can you hear me?”
“I hear you” answered Jukuren, relieved.
“This is the ground team,” came Blanco’s voice, “can anyone hear us.”
“Loud and clear!” said Jukuren.
“I disabled the jammer,” said Jay proudly. “What’s the situation?”
“We have a survivor” responded Blanco.
“There’s some serious shit going on here! We’re attempting evac” said Petrus, alarmed, over the comm.
“Return to the ship,” said Jukuren. “This was obviously a planned attack.”
“Attempting to…’persuade’ survivor to come with us” said Petrus. “We’ll get back ASAP.”
“We are trying to save a princess. Calm your hormones, people” added Blanco.
“Is it Max?” asked Jukuren.
“No,” responded Blanco. “Not Max.”
“Any hostiles encountered?”
“Yeah, saw some bugs” said Blanco, nonchalantly.
“I shot some insects,” added Jay. “Let me know when you’re off so I can blow up the ship.” The glee in his voice was clear.
“Get ready!” came Petrus’s voice. “Coming in hot!”
“Well, hotter than usual” said Petrus.
Suddenly, the ground team came into view. Slung over Petrus’s shoulder was a woman. The three men ran into the docking bay and the airlock door shut firmly behind them. The door began to shake and a noise erupted from it, like the sound of thousands of drums beating. The docking tube pulled from the carrier and the frigate began to move. Inside, Petrus lay the woman down on the ground while Winry and Blanco rushed to her aid.
“She’s in shock!” shouted Winry.
A boom exploded from the carrier; the work of Jay no doubt. Jukuren, having cleared the carrier and having activated autopilot, entered the room.
“We’ve received a transmission from the SS Interdictor. I’m going to attempt a series of FTL jumps to try and…” he stopped, realising that nobody was listening to him. He walked up to Petrus.
“What happened in there?” he asked him.
“Well,” began Petrus, taking out a toothpick on which to chew, “we saw some insects tearing the shit out of corpses. So we ran like babatjies, found this chick,” he gestured at the woman, “and got the fok uit!”