Fabianspace

ST: HMB Episode 1: Best Laid Plans of Vegetation and Cybernetic Beings, pt 2

Did you miss Episode 1? Find it here.

The lazivator doors opened to the bridge, but Jed paused a minute before entering to admire the view and give the reader a chance to visualize the setting. Like most iGotThis class vessels, the bridge was a small compact bubble with a 360-degree view of the space through which it traveled. Of course, the view was digitally generated; the bridge itself nestled securely in the center of the saucer section under multiple deck platings and shields. Most species thought the design overkill…until they met the kind of crew that generally gravitated to HuFleet.

Let’s meet a few of them now:

To the right, in a horseshoe-shaped console that manned sensors, communications, and ship systems and could be tied to engineering and command functions by flipping the switches installed under the main console, Ensign Ellie Doall stood, fingers flying over the touchpad screens. Was she recalibrating the sensors? Scanning for potential threats? Tallying the latest ship’s pool? Jed never quite knew, though he guessed – and accurately – that she was doing more than one. Regardless, if he needed anything, he could count on her to already be on it by the time he asked.

On his left, in a similarly shaped console, Minion First Class Gel O’Tin stabbed one of his tendrils at the security board at a significantly slower pace than Doall. Probably following the progress of their new guests, or trying to, if the greyish blue of his gelatinous endoplasm was any indication. O’Tin didn’t have a lot of experience with bridge duty yet. Not to mention the fact that the human interfaces baffled him easily. There were times when his technical incompetence exasperated Jed, but there was no disputing the Globbal’s talents in a fight. O’Tin absorbed punishment…then he absorbed his foes.

Almost dead across from Jeb, the helmsman, Francisco Cruz lounged at his console, feet up on the edge while he told a story to Commander Phineas Smythe, the first officer who sat in one of two revolving chairs in the center of the room. Judging from how his hands were moving, he was either relaying an atmospheric dogfight from his Union Air Force days or a fight he’d had with his grandmother. In the recessed alcove to his right, three extra crewman half-listened while they played cards.

“Then she hit me- Bada-bam! Glancing shot to my port thrusters. I had to make an emergency landing in Dona Tortella’s tomato fields. I stunk of marinara all summer. I’m a-telling you. You don’t snitch my nona’s tortellini or her hovercrafts!”

“Your grandmother was quite a woman,” Commander Smythe remarked dryly. “I wonder. If we invited her aboard could she break you of the habit of putting your feet on the nav console?”

“Sorry, sir,” he said. “Orbit’s just so boring. Put her in the right spot and stick her on autopilot. Doall could handle it from her console.”

“I have,” Doall answered. “Captain on the bridge, by the way – or at least in the lazivater.”

Cruz’s feet came down with a thump and Smyth spun the command chair to face the back. “Sir! Are our guests aboard safely?”

Capt. Tiberius strode in, but paused just past the double-horseshoes of Security and Ops. “Well, Dolfrick would insist they died in route, of course, but they seem fine now. I left them in Loreli’s capable hands. Are LaFuentes and Deary waiting for us in the briefing room?”

Smythe nodded. “There has been giggling, sir. I fear the worst.”

“Well, we’d better get in there before they devise some creative new way to blow up this ship.”

“Or someone else’s.”

Jeb shrugged. “Don’t care so much about someone else’s, as long as it’s the right someone else’s.  Cruz, why don’t you come join us if you’re so bored?”

Immediately, a relief crewman jumped up from the card table to take over the helm. Cruz and Smythe joined the captain, and they headed to the briefing room.

As Smythe said, there was giggling coming from the room, the maniacal giggling of creative minds in collaboration. On an engineering marvel of mischief? Probably both, and that suited the captain just fine. The greatest advances in human science came from someone saying, “What the hell? Let’s give it a try,” and he encouraged that attitude in all his crew.

Of course, as soon as the door opened, the giggling stopped and whatever 3D image they’d been looking at was wiped away with a sweep of LaFuentes’ hand.

“I hope you gentlemen have something good,” Capt. Tiberius said as he took his seat.

“O, vera, Captain. You gonna love this!” La Fuentes half stood out of his seat in his excitement. “See, I was having this nightmare…”

“Nightmare?”

“Yeah, it was intense! I was back in the Hood and the zombies were coming and we were trying to get to the Union evac point, right? And were all piling into my cousin’s ZAT, you know, the Zombie Apocalypse Truck?”

“We’re familiar,” Smythe said, “The same kind of vehicle you like to take on away missions, the one that only recently crashed through two Halderan establishments, a herd of cattle and a small hill.”

“I rescued our people from the Halderan, though, and those cattle spat corrosives.”

“They certainly did as the ZAT’s front blade threw them aside.”

“Exatamente! Just like the zombies in my dream – getting knocked out of the way, that is.”

“You really drove trucks on a spaceship?” Cruz asked.

“The UGS Hood* was a generation ship, man. It was bigger than that town your nona lived in – tomato fields and all. But you’re missing the point. That blade is wikadas. So anyway, in my dream, we plowing through zombies and mi abuela is praying and my primo is screaming and my cousin’s all ‘Ten pins, man!’ And then the zombies turn into Cybers and we’re in space. And then it hit me. We need a wikadas blade for the Impulsive.”

“The cybers are on the other side of the quadrant,” Smythe said.

LeFuentes rolled his eyes. “Says Union Intel. You think they’re going to concentrate on one spot? Sooner or later, we’re going to run into a swarm. I want us to be ready.”

“And how are we to attach a blade to the hull of the Impulsive outside of dry dock?”

At this point, Chief Engineer Deary took the briefing. He activated the 3D image they’d been snickering over earlier. The Impulsive rotated over the table. Damn fine ship, Jeb though as he again paused to admire this ship and give the reader a chance to see it from the outside.

The iGotThis class vessel, with four warp engines – two for drive, two for reverse – flanking the wide flat operations section, known as Other One. The saucer section, so shaped because why the hell not?, housed command, primary sickbay and main quarters. It, too, had independent warp, though the engines stayed dormant until the two sections separated. A thing of beauty, despite the dings and dents from too many years of flying through subspace phenomena without stopping in drydock for a buff. Personality, Jeb liked to call it, but really, a visit to drydock meant having “outsiders’ crawl all over his ship questioning every modification, which meant months of Deary yelling and a mountain of paperwork to fill out, justifying every hairbrained alteration that saved their lives.

Alterations like LaFuentes and Deary were suggesting today.

Deary touched a button and the Impulsive was shrouded in a bubble representing its deflector shields.

“So, sirs, we don’t need a physical blade. We just alter the deflector shields and reshape it.” To demonstrate, he reached out and “pinched” the shield in front of the ship with his fingers and pulled it away. The shield pulled into a cone.

La Fuentes tapped some buttons on the table and the Impulsive rammed an asteroid, shattering it into a dozen pieces.

“Or, if we’re deaing with a cyberswarm…” Deary used both hands to manipulate the forward shield into a blade.  This time, the simulation slices through the swarm of cybershops, flinging some aside while shattering others with satisfying pyrotechnics.

“’Ten pins, man!’ indeed,” Smythe commented.

“Yeah! But what’s even better is you’re actually deflecting stuff. The only thing hitting anything dead-on is the blade itself, and if they’re shooting at us, it’s all at angles to the deflector. You know, glancing blows.”

“Play that again, half speed,” Jeb said. Yeah, it was even funnier in slo-mo. “So, what will it take to outfit us with a wikadas blade?”

“Ach, we just need to reprogram the deflector controls. Might have to reroute power to make sure the points of contact are reinforced. Permission to enable reroute to life support for extreme emergencies?”

“No problem. We have enough ambient heat and air for half an hour after they turn off. If we aren’t out of the battle by then, we’re probably gonners anyway.”

“So we can do the modification?” La Fuentes asked. “Like, now?”

“We have an easy cruise to Planet X. Engineering should have the time. Beer me.”

“Yes!” Both security chief and chief engineer pumped their fists.

Jeb tapped the console and his ship with its wikadas blade plowed through a cyberswarm battle. The enemy’s shots glanced off the reshaped shields while the ship zig-zagged through the swarm like a ZAT though a zombie hoard. Pow! Boom! Splat!

He loved his job.

*

This is about the time you’d have a commercial break. Since I’m giving you two weeks to go to the bathroom, grab a snack, kiss someone you love, or let the dog out, just do me a 3-minute favor. If you are enjoying this story, sign up to get notifications for future installments, follow the ST:HMB Facebook page or sign up for my monthly newsletter. Do all three if you love me as much as Jeb loves his job.

  • H/T to Daniel Haas who insisted that the Hood be a ship instead of a planet. This is interactive. Join the FB group and have some fun. You may see your suggestion take flight!

Episode 3 is up!

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