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    81 KB A Guide to Heinlein: Part 7 Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:24 No.12082026  
    Lets try this again since /tg/ seems to be working once more, but I can't post anything at all into the thread I started just a short while back. Not sure what is going on there, so I'll try once more and if this doesn't work give up until tomorrow night.

    First, let me apologize for not posting the past few days, I've been working several double shifts, and having to rework the background a bit to make it all mesh with the direction that the story seems to be taking.

    That said, I've got chapters 13, 14, and 15 ready to post.

    For those who have been following along and for those who have not been following along, below are the links to the archives of the story thus far.

    Part 1 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11829913/
    Part 2 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11841933/
    Part 3 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11881463/
    Part 4 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11894464/
    Part 5 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11920627/
    Part 6 http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/11972911/
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:25 No.12082029
    Chapter Thirteen

    When mankind first reached for the stars, it was built upon the foundation that we had built on the backs of conflict throughout the ages. Rocketry, the crudest form of space travel was originally developed for warfare. Times of great technological advancement have always been proceeded by times of internecine conflict. Medical advancements and marvels both technical and architectural show in their core design mankind's flawed tendency of the application of military force.

    When first we reached the stars and discovered them to be empty save for ourselves, those who had once dreamt of claiming the stars by fire and sword were left without an external foe to turn their tools of war towards. Those who had spent their lives dreaming of carving their names in the annals of history and anointing their immortality in the blood of their enemies turned once more to that most ancient of foes, themselves.

    True immortality, the ability to live forever unchanging in a constantly changing universe is theoretically possible according to most scientists. While any technology that would allow such to occur is still far off in the distant future, there is still the age old immortality of the past. Names stand in our collective conscious of those ancient warriors who etched their memory into our past. Men both great and terrible are in fact still remembered to this day. Names such as Genghis Khan, Erwin Rommel, and Alexander the Great are still remembered even though their deeds and lives are now in some cases more than a thousand years old.

    Humanity as a collective whole does not remember the brilliant minds who developed the first working computer, but it does remember those who built the first atomic weapon. That desire for immortality is in part, what has driven the Alliance and Coalition to the very precipice of that most terrible human endeavor once again.

    *Excerpt from Visiting Humanity in the Stars, Brinkley Publishing, Heinlein, 2620 edition.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:26 No.12082033
    * * *

    Slowly Nate opened his eyes once more, blinked, and stared at the face of the man standing before him. A smile played across his face and he allowed himself a moment of hope.

    “William!” Nate said. “You made it! Does this mean we're safe?”

    “Yes, I made it.” replied William. “No, it doesn't mean we are quite safe yet, but it does mean we are safe for the time being.”

    “Thank god for that.” said Nate as he levered himself up from the medical slab. “How'd you manage it? There was a doctor, and a captain, and a guy with some seriously scary eyes asking me questions about you..."

    “Nate.” William interrupted. “I made a deal with them. In exchange for not being turned over to Tulkus and getting out of system both of us will be working as part of the crew for a while.”

    “Crew?” questioned Nate. “But I don't know anything about crewing a starship! I've never even left Anson until this!”

    William patted Nate almost gently on the shoulder and helped him off the slab.

    “You know anything about the slow burn drives?”

    “Sure, the Kinzer pattern drives, I used to work on the technical team at Jennings, why?” asked Nate.

    “Because you just joined their technical crew.” William said.

    “Oh. Well, yeah, that makes sense.” nodded Nate. “But what about you?”

    William gestured to the entrance of the medical bay where Vitor stood.

    “I joined the brute squad.”

    Nate snickered for a moment uncontrollably while Williams face darkened.

    “It suits you.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:28 No.12082036
    William frowned for a moment before finally allowing a grin to emerge upon his face.

    “Yeah.” William said. “I suppose it does at that.”

    “So... if we are part of the crew.” began Nate as William and he made their way across the medical bay to where Vitor stood.“Does this mean we get places to sleep and food. I don't know about you, but I feel like I haven't eaten in days.”

    “It does indeed Hawkins.” said Vitor. “With captain Cailean gone, I'll show the two of you around the Carthage a bit and get you squared away in the communal cabins.”

    “With less than half the crew the ship is supposed to have” William said “Doesn't it make more sense to assign people to single cabins?”

    Vitor shrugged and keyed open the pressure hatch.

    “It does until you think about how many different uses the extra space can be put to. The armory where your weapons are now being stored for example...” Vitor said as they made their way through the hatch and turned down the hallway outside of the medical bay. “It used to be a state room for Alliance officials. I don't know why they put a state room in since nobody has ever heard of a high level Alliance official leaving Earth, but they did, and it's centrally located and thus a very convenient place to store dangerous equipment.”

    “I'm surprised you aren't putting William in there with the rest of the supplies then.” quipped Nate.

    “Funny.” William said.

    “I'm glad you are feeling better Hawkins.” said Vitor as they walked. “Some people react poorly to being drugged and questioned. You seem to be handling it a lot better than most.”

    “It must be traveling with William.” Nate said with a shrug. “Since he started dragging me around, I've seen a lot of things and been beaten more than a few times. I think I'm almost getting used to it.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:28 No.12082039
    “Who beat you?” questioned Vitor as they arrived at a ladderway labeled Gamma-Iota. “I would think with your own protector around you would be fairly safe.”

    “I did.” said William quietly.

    “It's alright though, he said he was sorry.”

    “He said he was sorry?” asked Vitor as he waited for the hatch to cycle open.

    “Yeah, he said it when he was busy punching me in the mouth.” Nate said as a psychosomatic twinge made his jaw ache in remembrance. “Never ask William for an apology. Trust me when I say that you won't like the consequences.”

    Shaking his head Vitor gestured into the ladderway.

    “Two levels up gentlemen. Follow me if you please.”

    Having said his piece Vitor slid effortlessly into the ladderway and began his ascent rapidly. William followed into the entrance as soon as he saw Vitor's feet vanish from sight. Nate stood alone in the alcove for a moment and took a deep breath before climbing in behind them.

    “I'm in space.” he said to himself as he began the short climb. “It's not that bad.”

    The short trip ended abruptly for Nate as upon entering the indicated level Vitor led them down a short corridor and stopped at another hatch.

    “Hawkins, you'll be staying here.”

    When the hatchway opened Nate gaped as he saw the room that was revealed before him. When he had heard communal cabin, in his mind he saw rows of bunks that were filled almost to capacity with crew stacked from floor to ceiling. What he saw before him was a empty common room with six separate individual doorways that led to sleeping quarters for it's inhabitants.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:29 No.12082046
    “This is cabin Gamma five. The second room on the left is yours.” said Vitor as Nate stepped through the hatchway. “Don't worry about not having anything really personal for the time being, I'll have your personal effects brought up soon. Just get settled in for now, and get a chance to meet your room mates. Someone will be by with a shift assignment and for the first couple of shifts you'll be getting shown around by one of the technical staff until you get your feet under you.”

    “Thanks.” Nate replied as he tried to take in his new surroundings.

    “If you get lost, just tune your earcom to the Carthage's internal frequency, and ask for assistance.”

    Nate glanced out the hatchway as Vitor turned to leave.

    “Wait. Where's William staying?”

    “Most of the time the bricks and technicians don't tend to socialize very much.” Vitor smiled faintly. ”He'll be rooming in Beta two aft with the rest of the bricks.”

    “Bricks?” asked Nate.

    “It's the brute squad, Nate.” said William. “The brute squad.”


    Nate stepped into his new sleeping quarters as the hatch behind him closed faintly. The single bunk and small closet were significantly less spacious than he had imagined, but it was more than he had hoped for when he and William had stowed away on the shuttle. After a moment of looking around him he sat down at one of the two holo terminals in the community room and began to familiarize himself with the floor plan of the Carthage.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:30 No.12082054
    The hatchway Vitor led William to one level higher aboard the ship was much the same in appearance as the one where they had left Nate. Vitor paused outside the hatch and glanced over at William.

    “Beta two aft.” said Vitor, “Make yourself at home.”

    William surmised what was in store for him as Vitor turned and walked away rapidly. Touching the holopad beside the hatchway, William took a long breath and stepped inside as soon as the hatchway had opened far enough.

    The room he found himself was as different from the common area of Nate's cabin as night is from day. Where the previous common room was clean and tidy, the one he stood in was cluttered and filled with people who stared at him as he entered.

    A tall light skinned woman stood up from her place at an ongoing card game and jerked a thumb towards a door against the far back wall.

    “You're room is in the back new guy.”

    William walked to room indicated and poked his head inside. Sniffing disdainfully at the accumulated detritus littering the floor he shook his head and walked to the doorway closest to the entrance hatch.

    “I'll take this one.” said William turning his head to the people gathered around the card game. “Someone needs to get their stuff out of my room.”

    From one of the men standing around the table turned to William and arched an eyebrow in amusement.

    “Your room meat?” he asked menacingly.

    “My room.” replied William casually.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:33 No.12082070
    The presumed occupant crossed the room with a swagger before coming to a stop scant inches from William. The taller man leant down and sneered into the new arrivals face as he tapped William lightly in the chest.

    “Rooms are based on seniority around here meat. Until I tell you different, you get the back room.”

    William stared into the sneering bearded face in front of him and smiled before he grabbed the thumb of the hand that tapped him and wrenched back on the wrist until the man knelt before him.

    “New rules. You get the back room.” stated William in an icy tone.

    The moment stretched as William continued to apply pressure to the wrist he held locked tight before him until a casual voice from the back of the room rose through the silence.

    “Better do as he says Carter.”

    The speaker rose from where his sat against the far wall, and set an old fashioned book down on the chair as he made his way towards the pair. When he stooped beside them he glanced at the kneeling man before looking at William.

    “Let him go.”

    William nodded once and moved back a single step as he released the wrist lock. The man on the floor before William gasped and clutched his hand to his chest as he rose angrily to his full height and glowered down at William. Carter reached to the small of his back before stopping as the deep voice continued.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:35 No.12082078
    “If you pull that knife out Carter, he'll kill you before you even blink.”

    Carter paused as the stranger stared into Williams face.

    “Won't you?” came the question that wasn't a question.

    Coldly William nodded, and with an almost muffled curse Carter stomped past William and into the room he once occupied. William stepped to the side and studied the man beside him. Comprehension flickered in his eyes as recognized the cold look on the strangers face; the dead eyed stare that came from far to much experience with death, and William warily nodded his thanks.

    “William Richardson.” he said. “Coalition marines.”

    “Ray Stemmler.” came the reply. “Martian scouts.”

    “That explains it.” said William after a moments pause.

    Like several military units throughout history, the Martian scouts were largely seen as purely ceremonial in nature. From their foundation during the late 24th century, they never saw action, serving primarily as bodyguards and as a way for the Terran Alliance to show how truly elite their military was. Their reputation became one of being very pretty during parades, yet untested in any true military application. Their reputation as a showpiece unit unsuited to military action remained fixed in place for slightly over a hundred years.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:36 No.12082092
    It was only following the destruction of the Martian atmosphere in late 2597 when an unidentified starship traveling at almost .8 of light speed punched through the thin atmosphere and impacted slightly south of the Olympus Mons. The kinetic force of the impact scoured the atmosphere and rendered the first world that mankind colonized nearly lifeless. With the vast majority of the worlds population destroyed, and the few remaining pockets of survivors huddling together with steadily dwindling supplies, the Martian scouts finally earned a new reputation.

    Unasked for, the Scouts left the single remaining secure hab facility that had once been the capitol of Mars, and began the thankless task of searching for survivors in the once again inhospitable martian landscape. Where once countless small domed habitats had housed several hundred million souls, less than thirty thousand people survived. By the time that the Scouts were able to begin evacuating those survivors to the remaining habitation dome, the ability to assist those survivors had dwindled to almost nil.

    The evacuation of Mars was both the finest moment of the Martian Scouts and their worst. For days, lone members of the Scouts had performed unspeakable acts of bravery and heroism, and without and doubt, the Martian devastation would have left no survivors were it not for those brave souls. But the very act of being able to provide for limited numbers of survivors led to their new reputation being one of savage pragmatism rather than selfless heroism. When the capacity of the hab dome was reached, other survivors were turned away at gunpoint.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:37 No.12082096
    The very act of culling the survivors was anathema to many. After the crisis ended, and those few souls they had saved from certain death were safe, many of the scouts simply wandered into the Martian wasteland and opened their survival suits. Others who managed to survive along side those they had saved became addicts, trading upon their status for their next stimulant fix.

    A very finite few however, discovered that they liked deciding who was to live and who would die. Some of those men and women eventually cast as pariahs by those they had served left Alliance space in an attempt to discover who, if anyone, was responsible for the scouring of Mars.

    William watched as Jeff walked back to the seat he had left scant moments ago and noticed the mild trepidation that the other occupants of the communal room regarded Jeff with. Jeff sat back down in the low seat and lifting his book once more, began to ignore the room as a whole. William glanced back as Carter grumbled while removing his items from the room.

    “A Martin Scout on the Carthage.” thought William to himself as he found himself walking to where Jeff sat. “I wonder what other surprises this bunch holds.”

    Jeff lowered the book to his lap and stared up at the former marine as William approached where he sat.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:38 No.12082104
    “I don't have the answer you are looking for.” Jeff said calmly. “But you knew that.”

    “Answer?” asked William.

    “What you should be asking me about is the question.” said Jeff. “Before you can find the answer, you first have to ask yourself the question.”

    William glanced around and pulled the chair that Carter had once filled at the table over to beside where Jeff sat.

    “Esoteric riddles? I'm not here for questions or answers. I'm just here for work.”

    Jeff glanced at William before nodding and raising his book once more.

    “I see.” said Jeff from behind the pages. “You haven't found out that the question exists yet.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    With a sigh Jeff closed the book and set it aside once more.

    “I know you. Oh, not you personally, but I know your kind.” explained Jeff. “You trade in death, the murder of innocents is your livelihood. However you do it, you kill because it is all you know how to do. You don't know how to be human long enough to ask yourself why it is that you kill or what it is that drives you to inflict pain and suffering on those weaker than yourself. You would have killed Carter if I hadn't stepped in, and just over getting a room that you believe will establish you as a leader in the pecking order.”

    Taken aback William glanced behind him as Carter carried another armful of his possessions out of his old cabin.
    >> Anonymous 09/14/10(Tue)03:38 No.12082105
         File1284449917.jpg-(544 KB, 1680x1050, God Quote.jpg)
    544 KB
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:39 No.12082110
    “I...” stuttered William, unaccustomed to being talked about so frankly. “How?”

    Gently Jeff shook his head in answer.

    “The question is not 'How?'. The question is, 'Why?'.”

    “If the question is Why, then I already know the answer.” said William.

    “Do you indeed?” asked Jeff raising his bushy eyebrows. “What is the answer then?

    “It's simple.” William said, “Because I like it.”

    “You enjoy inflicting pain and misery on others?”

    “It's what humans do.” said William flatly. “We don't build for the sake of art, we build for the sake of function. We came from a harsh world into an even more harsh galaxy. Everything about us has been a struggle to excel, to survive. We adapt, we overcome, and we survive because it's our nature.”

    “So, you believe that you are nothing more than a product of history?”

    Shaking his head negatively William raised a hand to stop Jeff from continuing.

    “No. What I am is a product of Camp Drake. I'm also someone who doesn't care to ask your introspective question. I'm a human, I kill because it's what I do and I like it. I do it because deep down I'm a violent self serving son of a bitch, and I'm good at it. If others can't solve their problems then they turn to people like me.”

    William stared hard into Jeff's dead eyes.

    “They turn to people like us.” said William correcting himself “Because when you tear away the thin veneer of civilization, you find that we are all predators out to take what we want from those around us. Those who pretend to be otherwise are just lying to themselves. At our very core, we are the barbarians howling at the gates of reality. The thing that goes bump in the night doesn't scare us after we grow up because we understand that there isn't anything more terrifying who we truly are.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:40 No.12082114
    “No.” Jeff replied emphatically. “You may think that way, but eventually you will find out that there is something more than just being out for yourself. I just hope that you figure out the answer before you make the same mistake that I did.”

    “What mistake was that?”

    “Killing everything and everyone I have ever loved.” said Jeff with a sad smile on his face before returning his attention once more to his book. “You know, the usual.”

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:42 No.12082125
    Thus endeth Chapter 13.
    Thread archived at http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/12082026/

    Chapter 14 beginning momentarily.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:43 No.12082133
    Chapter Fourteen

    Communication throughout known space can be glacially slow. Without the ability for messages to travel faster than light, news can be months old by the time that someone on the other side of space finally receives it. Typically, most news is propagated throughout the stars by courier drones, simple message pods that are strapped to pocket drive engines.

    These drones are deployed from small automated stations that reside between a system's heliosheath and heliosphere. These stations receive transmissions from inside the planetary system and upon receiving instruction to transmit their data payload, will upload a drone with the information provided, following detailed instructions the drone will then deploy to a safe distance from the station and any known hazards or traffic before initiating it's pocket drive and transmitting itself onward to it's destination system.

    Upon arrival at the target system, the drone will broadcast it's contents to the receiving station before automated guidance systems will dock it with the station for refueling and reuse. Upon receipt of a broadcast from a courier drone, the station will forward the message along in-system through use of a simple laser broadcast emitter.

    Other, more informal systems of message transmission do exist, the ancient rumor mill still manages to travel faster than light, and frequently gathering places frequented by interstellar travelers will have news more up to date than that of the courier drones.

    *Excerpt from Visiting Humanity in the Stars, Brinkley Publishing, Heinlein, 2620 edition.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:45 No.12082144
    * * *

    Nate turned his head from the display laid out before him as the holopad beside the door of Nate's small cabin chimed twice. For a moment he sat in silence before the chime came once more, louder. Closing the display, Nate stretched as he slid off of the small bunk he had been sitting upon and walked to the door. With a wave of his hand the chamber opened and a middle aged blond woman stepped in.

    “Hi. I'm Britt.” she said enthusiastically. “Britt Lene, you're Nate Hawkins right?”

    “That's me.” said Nate as Britt turned and began handing him several monoplast packages. “What's all this stuff?”

    Britt handed a fourth package to the already overloaded Nate and tossed another package onto the bunk as he set them down.

    “It's the stuff you'll need working down in engineering. A couple uniforms, a hard copy of the ship layout so you can make sure you don't get lost, and your ident chit that you'll need to access some of the compartments and to get fed."

    Nate's stomach rumbled at the mention of food, reminding him of exactly how long it had been since last he ate. Britt laughed as Nate sheepishly covered his stomach.

    “Sorry.” grinned Nate. “It's been a while since dinner.”

    “I imagine it has. When's the last time you ate?”

    Nate's mind wandered for a moment over the frantic course that the past two days had taken for him before shaking his head.

    “I'm not really sure, it's been a really crazy few days for me. I've mostly been running on adrenaline and fear.” said Nate aware finally of how painfully empty his stomach was. “I'm famished.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:45 No.12082149
    Britt shook her head while smiling and indicated the package she had tossed onto the bunk with a nod.

    “Your chit is in that package. Grab it and I'll show you to the galley.” she said. “I'm not sure what all will be ready right now, it's a bit early for dinner, but I'm certain we can manage something.”

    Nate grabbed the monoplast package and ripped the wrapping away from the waiting chit before sliding it into his pocket. He turned to Britt and gestured to the doorway.

    “Ladies first.” he said. “After you.”

    “Not like that.” she said. “Get changed into one of the skinsuits, I'll wait outside.”

    “Can't that wait?”

    “No.” she said firmly. “That skinsuit is important, it marks you as a part of the crew, not a passenger or cargo.”

    “Cargo?” blinked Nate.

    “What else would you call someone in cryo?” Britt asked. “They aren't supposed to be awake so they can't be a passenger and they aren't crew, so what else would you call them?”

    Nate stopped for a moment as Britt stepped out of the room, the door closing before he got a chance to respond. Shaking his head Nate began opening the packages before finally finding one of the indicated skinsuits. After he had changed he keyed the holopad to open the door once more and began to step through when Britt blocked his path.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:46 No.12082153
    “Got your chit?” she asked.

    Nate frowned at himself and stepped back to where his discarded clothing lay beside the tiny autohamper at the foot of the bunk. Finding the chit he turned towards the woman waiting for him and began to slide it into a pocket when she stopped him once more.

    “On your chest, the small pouch above your heart.” Britt said tapping the holder on her own skinsuit. “It slips right in.”

    Nate nodded and slid the ident chit into the pouch indicated sealing it tightly.

    Her smile returned, Britt jerked her head towards out of the cabin.

    “Follow me, we'll get you fed and then show you a bit of the ship before taking you to meet with the rest of our shift.”

    “Our shift?” asked Nate as he followed Britt out of the cabin and into the hallway beyond the common room.

    “Yes, our shift.” nodded Britt as they walked. “You were assigned to gold shift, same as me and everyone else in Gamma five.”

    “Oh.” said Nate. “I didn't know that. My bad.”

    “Don't worry about it.” Britt said as the two of them made their way to a ladderway alcove. “They try to keep everyone in a shift together, it builds unity and a sense of familiarity for shift teams. Anyone who doesn't mesh well with a team is likely to cause trouble working together, so they get switched to a different team where they hopefully mesh better.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:48 No.12082161
    “That sounds... sensible.” agreed Nate as he followed her into the cramped ladderway. A short while later, as they climbed out of the ladderway he finished his thought. “I guess it makes a lot of sense really. Back at Jennings if a guy didn't like the team he was on, they pulled him from the crew before a mistake happened and someone ended up hurt or worse.”

    “Exactly.” said Britt as they finally stopped before a large hatchway. “And here we are, at the galley.”

    She keyed open the hatch and as they stepped in Nate marveled at the length of the room they entered. Five long rows of tables and benches filled most of the convenient space with people sitting in clusters around trays of food; most of the occupants paid little or no attention to the two of them as Britt led Nate down a small open walk leading around the perimeter of the room. They stopped at the rear of the room where five individual displays were set into the wall.

    “It's a normal cafeteria system. It displays the menu of what's available, all you have to do is select what you want and how much, and then scan your chit.” said Britt as she keyed a few selections into one of the displays. “Word of warning however, don't ever touch the stroganoff. They can't ever get it to taste right, it always comes out as a sour goo.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:48 No.12082166
    Absently Nate keyed through the menu, stopping finally as he saw one of his favorites displayed. He keyed in the selection for vat chicken and dumplings, beans, and a sweet coffee. The optic scanner read his ident chit and a few moments later a panel he hadn't even noticed opened in the wall below the display to reveal a tray with his selected meal.

    “Chicken and dumplings. That's one of the good ones.” Britt said as she removed her own tray from the wall panel and started walking towards one of the small clusters of people seated at a table. “I haven't seen the autocooker mess that one up in a few years.”

    Nate sat down gratefully across from Britt and tore into his food with a gusto he hadn't felt in years. The food tasted different than he had been expecting, but it was filling and the coffee tasted wonderful. After to short a time Nate found his tray was empty and sat back contentedly.

    “That was good.” he said as he took a final sip from his coffee and looked at his dining companions. “After the past couple of days, I needed that.”

    Britt smiled at Nate and gestured with her chin to the man sitting beside her. “This is Seok.” she said around a mouthful of noodles. “He's going to partner with you for the first couple of shifts until you get your feet under you.”

    “Nate.” said Nate as he extended his hand across the table.

    “Seok.” came the reply as his new partner engulfed Nate's hand in a handshake. “You got much experience?”

    “Some.” Nate said nodding his head. “I was a slow burn tech with Jennings for a few years until they laid me off.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:50 No.12082182
    “What happened?” Seok asked his eyes narrowing suspiciously.

    “They laid off about half of the techs. “said Nate with a shrug. “Something about lawsuit costs and departmental overages.”

    “Makes sense.” Seok said knowingly. “They kept shipping garbage and charging to much for engines that need to have their ignition chambers pulled after less than a hundred light years.”

    “You know the rules!” said one member of the group at the table. “No shop talk during dinner!”

    “Pipe down O'Malley.” said Britt as she finished her meal. “It's better to get to know the new guy before the shift starts so we know what kinda guy he is.”

    “Ignore him.” Seok said turning back to Nate. “O'Malley's a great technician, but he hates talking about work when he's eating.”

    “It bothers the digestion!” insisted the rotund man for his place several spots down the group. “How can you expect me to eat and think at the same time? A body can only focus on one thing at a time properly!”

    Shaking her head Britt turned towards Nate and smiled. “He's also crazy.”

    “Crazy like a fox!” grinned O'Malley as he lifted the cup before him and took a long drink. “If I didn't focus on eating, and spent time thinking; why, I would probably end up with a fork in my eye or something. You never know how dangerous a fork can be until you stab yourself in the eye because you were busy talking about replacing an ignition chamber.”

    For the first time in what felt like a long time Nate smiled as the conversation continued around him. Happily he laughed at the joking banter that flew across the table, reflecting on how good it felt to be with people he understood once more.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:51 No.12082191
    Lugh frowned as he read the body of the message that Tulkus had lazed up to the Carthage several minutes prior.

    “Who the hell do they think they are?” he grumbled to himself as he leant back in his command char. “Demanding that I let them aboard and do a complete search of the Carthage. Did they say anything else?”

    He turned in the seat and glared across at where Langley usually sat. Saxon Grimes, Langley's second shrugged apologetically at the captain as he checked his display.

    “That's all there is sir. Just what I sent to your console.” he said from behind the communications station. “You want me to double check it?”

    “No, don't bother.” said Lugh with an angry wave of his hand. “They've gotta know I won't let them aboard. Hold on Saxon, I'll upload a reply for you to send them in a minute.”

    Lugh tapped away at the controls on his console and allowed the anger he felt to display on his face as he turned to the display emitter.

    “No.” Lugh said, his tone cold. “Not only is the answer a most emphatic No, but No and go screw yourself. There is no chance in hell I will let your armored thugs board the Carthage and do whatever deviltry it is that you want. I'll start chucking rocks at any shuttle that looks like it's headed this way before they even break atmo. If any ship starts heading towards us, I'll hole her without blinking and then start chucking rocks at the Clarke port.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:51 No.12082200
    The threat was only partly an empty one. While the Carthage had started it's life as a military ship, it's armament was vastly out dated compared to modern naval vessels, and the single spinal rail-gun it carried was woefully underpowered. While the kinetic launcher was more than powerful enough to punch holes through most of the ships in high orbit around the planet, the main firing chamber was badly in need of replacement and Lugh was hesitant to use it save in dire circumstance. Lugh didn't think that Tulkus didn't need to know that however.

    “But, I'm a reasonable man.” he continued. “If you would simply tell me what you are looking for, rather than demanding that I let your goons aboard my ship, maybe we can reach some sort of agreement before things gets messy.”

    Lugh cut the transmission and slugged it through to Saxon's systems.

    “Send that.” he said. “Until they get an actual uplink started just keep replying with that. Let's see how long it takes for them to get the message.”

    “Not a problem sir.” said Saxon as his fingers flew across the holo display before him. “Message sent.”

    “Good.” Lugh said as he turned to where Sergei sat behind the astrogational panel. “How are the engines looking?”

    “Fine for now.” came the response. “We need to work on the pocket drive still, but the Kinzer system is fine.”

    “Get it ready, if we have to run I want to be able to go without hesitation.” Lugh commanded. “I really don't want to shoot our way out of the only free port that's worth a damn. But if we have to, then I want to make it in one piece.”

    “Not a problem oh fearless leader!” Sergei replied with a wry grin as he turned to his task.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:53 No.12082205


    “Get me the latest chart update you can pull out of the infonet. If we have to leave, let's try to find somewhere interesting to head.”

    “On it sir, Tulkus is still sending the same message over again.” said Saxon once again keying commands into his station. “Upload coming online, routing it to your console.”

    “That won't last.” grumbled Lugh as he brought the updated stellar charts up before him. “Once they figure out we won't roll over and do what they tell us, they'll cut off the infonet.”

    Silent minutes passed by as Lugh sifted through the recent data before by chance he stumbled upon passing mention of the recently explored system labeled with the temporary designation KO-189771. With a snort of derision regarding the genius behind the Terran Alliance's stellar naming convention, Lugh began a careful information search for more information regarding the system.

    “Main sequence star, a K class – haven't seen many of those explored recently.” muttered Lugh to himself absently as his eyes flickered across the information before him. “Five planets, two of them giants with moons, and a small asteroid belt. Two planets in the habitable zone, one of them being a giant. About twenty three billion years old. Looks like a decent prospect at least.”

    Lugh began to enter the information into the navigational display and shunted the information across to where Sergei sat.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:54 No.12082212
    “There's our next destination.” said Lugh. “It's a K class...”

    “I think Tulkus heard you.” came the flippant reply. “You need to learn to mutter more quietly.”

    “Sir.” came the voice of Saxon from behind Lugh as he readied a reply. “I've got an uplink request from Tulkus.”

    “You just got saved.” said Lugh waggling a finger in Sergei's direction. The small astrogator grinned as Lugh turned towards his display. “Send it through.”

    “Aye sir.” came the reply as the screen before Lugh came alive displaying a jowly face he knew far to well.

    “ Cailean!” the Tulkus representative barked through the uplink. “What the hell are you thinking? Threatening to start dropping rocks on Clarke? Are you mad?”

    “I'm not mad, I'm furious. You think I'm going to let you get by with demanding to board my ship without even asking Martin?” replied Lugh angrily. “I'm not some fresh-faced idiot who just happened to find himself with a ship! I know my rights!”

    “Your damned rights...” grumbled Martin. “In my ten years as port master I've heard far to damned many people talking about their rights. What about our rights Cailean? You're harboring terrorists; maniacs who butchered people in both Anson and Clarke!”

    “Terrorists?” said Lugh shaking his head in mock confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:55 No.12082221
    Martin's eyes squinted into the vid feed.

    “Don't give me that shit Cailean. You can't lie your way into a hookers pants.” came the terse reply. “You know who I'm talking about.”

    “Oh, you mean the two stowaways that came up on my shuttle.” Lugh said. “What about them?”

    “What about them?” said Martin, “You heard me Cailean. Those two are dangerous men. Turn them over and we can keep this all nice and legal.”

    “Fine, I'll turn them over to you.” said Lugh amicably. “What's it worth to you?”

    “Always out for yourself eh Cailean?” Martin asked. “How much do you want?”

    The figure Lugh named made Martin blink in shock and bewilderment.

    “That's... that's insane Cailean.” came the reply. “Nobody's worth that much.”

    Martin scratched his chin for a moment in thought as Lugh waited.

    “I'll tell you what. Let's make a deal here, why don't we cover your mooring costs and we'll call it even.”

    Lugh shook his head.

    “Not a chance. Your boys shot up a lot of my cargo when they were tearing the landing apart. Ruined half of what we brought up, half of what we paid for is still sitting on the pad and we both know I'll never see any of that again with your seizure policies.”

    “You got a better suggestion?”

    “I've got one. The cost of the supplies and cargo damaged comes out to about what the outstanding balance is. You call those two even, then we'll start talking about how much these two are worth, and after that we'll start talking about how much it's going to cost for the fuel and time it's going to cost me to send them back down to Clarke on a shuttle.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:55 No.12082225
    “There's no way I can do that.” Martin said. “I haven't got the authority to even discuss that much without getting prior approval.”

    “Well why don't you get that approval and call me back when you have it.” said Lugh calmly. “Until you can get that done, I wouldn't let any shuttles leave if I were you.”

    With a curse Martin cut the transmission and Lugh smiled to himself.

    “I think you may have got one over on that bastard sir.” Saxon said.

    “Yes, I think we may have.” sighed Lugh contentedly. “Now all we do is wait and see what he says.”

    “What are we going to do if they agree to pay for them though?” asked Sergei.

    “I'm not sure.” answered Lugh. “I guess we'll figure that out if they do.”

    * * *

    Almost a standard hour had passed before Saxon once more told Lugh of an uplink transmission being lazed to the Carthage. With a wary nod Lugh sat back and waited as his display lit up once more with the unpleasant face of Martin Alban.

    “No.” came the one word reply.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:56 No.12082232
    “No what?” asked Lugh.

    “There is no way that we are going to wipe the charges, pay for Richardson and Hawkins, and cover expenses.” Martin said. “We may forgive the charges, but that's it.”

    “See here Martin, I've got expenses. If you won't pay for them or for me to ship them down to you what the hell do you suggest?” barked Lugh angrily. “I'm not going to ship them down there for free, that's just going to put me in hock again!”

    “I'm not unreasonable to your plight.” said Martin, “I'll make it easy for you in a way that won't cost you anything but a little time.”


    “Space them.” came the reply. “It'll save us the cost of a trial, a very expensive trial.”

    “And it means that every single mark that Hawkins had goes right to Tulkus.” said Lugh flatly. “Rather than to paying for trivial expenses like my fuel and time.”

    “That too.” Martin said with a smile that never touched his eyes. “We have a deal?”

    Lugh growled under his breath and looked away from the console for a moment muting the audio pickup.

    “Sergei, get Vitor on the com, tell him to shove those two out an airlock.”

    “What?” came the reply of the shocked astrogator. “I don't have... ooooh.... very sneaky captain. I like it! By the way I have our course plotted out for KO-189771.”

    “Fine.” said Lugh reengaging the audio. “Done. They'll be sucking vacuum shortly.”

    “Always a pleasure doing business with you Cailean.” said Martin as he cut the uplink.

    Lugh leant as far back as his chair would allow him before running both his hands through the sparse hair on his head.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:58 No.12082240
    “Sergei, give it two hours, then get us under way.”

    “Not a problem captain.” came the reply. “I don't think that Heinlein is to happy with us right now.”

    “Probably not.” said Lugh rising from his chair. “Saxon, don't accept any uplinks before we get out of system. Let them think I'm pissed off and don't want to talk to them."

    “Yessir.” Saxon said. “If you don't mind me asking sir, where are you going to be?”

    “I'm going to get a drink Saxon. Talking with Martin always gives me a headache.”

    Slowly Lugh crossed the small bridge to the ladderway alcove and shook his head.

    “I'll probably have two.” As the alcove opened before him Lugh narrowed his eyes in though. “I better get Nogai to check out Hawkins. See exactly how good the kid is going to be and if he's going to be of any use to us. Don't want to have any misunderstandings later on if he doesn't work out.”

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)03:59 No.12082245
    And that gentlemen, is the end of chapter 14. Chapter 15 coming online shortly.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:01 No.12082257
    Chapter Fifteen

    Interstellar travel for the first two hundred and twenty years of humanities expansion into the stars was limited by the limited belief that the light speed barrier was unbreakable. While light speed is still believed to be impossible to reach much less breach, the initial Kinzer drive; so named after Steven Kinzer, the scientist who developed the self sustaining antimatter reaction that powers most in system travel and all initial interstellar travel; does allow travel speeds of close to light speed.

    However, interstellar travel using the Kinzer style drives is still slow. The initial trip to the Alpha Centauri system from Terra took twenty six years from normal perspective, and five years from the relative perspective of those explorers. It was not until early in 2209 that several scientific breakthroughs allowed the development of the so called Stellar Quantum-Gravitational Singularity drive, or the Pocket drive, as it is most commonly called.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:01 No.12082261
    The Pocket drive functions by initially creating a micro-stellar ignition event on the subatomic level which collapses upon itself while being bombarded with gravitons. The resulting gravitational wave formation forces any object of sufficient mass to be drawn into a self sustaining gravitational pocket towards the relative direction that it was angled towards. Upon contact with sufficient external gravitational force, the pocket collapses and it's contents are ejected at relativistic speed back into normal space. Because of the intense gravitational hazard to nearby objects, initiation of the Pocket drive is limited to beyond the inner reaches of a systems heliosphere.

    Several well established conspiracy theorists have pointed out that several of the ideas behind the Pocket drive should not function in the manner in which they do without an intense reworking the general laws of physics, or through a far vaster understanding of quantum physics than we possess.

    Scientists however continue to debunk these theories by simply pointing out that it works, even if our understanding of how it works is not yet complete.

    *Excerpt from Visiting Humanity in the Stars, Brinkley Publishing, Heinlein, 2620 edition.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:02 No.12082266
    William's head pulsed in synchronization with the gentle throbbing that seemed to fill the very air of his single room cabin. The uncomfortable pulsing in his head subsided as he sat up from the bed and eventually made it to a standing position. Everything about the ship throbbed where he stood, and gingerly he placed a hand on the wall beside him as he made his way out of the tiny room.

    “The hell is going on?” he demanded of the relatively few people gathered in the small common room that his cabin opened to.

    “Engine's got a vibration in it.” came the reply, he was still hazy with the names of most of his neighbors and didn't recognize the speaker. “Feels like a bad alignment maybe.”

    A light shudder shook the room causing William to nearly fall to the floor, and afterwards the uncomfortable pulsing subsided. Carefully William released his vice-like grip on the doorway where he stood.

    “Now what?”

    “They gave us a big push, the rest of those were just angle adjustments before they lit off the main engine.” the speaker, an athletic young man said. “Skipper probably won't bother firing the engines again for a few hours, not with the alignment that badly off. Pull up a chair.”

    William sat gingerly in the offered chair and stared across the round table at the man he was speaking with.

    “It always like that?” asked William cautiously.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:03 No.12082274
    “Not normally.” said the man who William vaguely recalled as being his opposite neighbor; Roger Kit. “As I said, the calibration has got to be off. Most of the time if you feel anything at all it's just a faint pulse. You never traveled in space before?”

    “Seven times.” nodded William. “First three times were in Coalition landers on training missions. With those old crates, it felt like a giant hand crushing you.”

    “Yeah,” Roger agreed “Those tubs had crap for inertial systems. The g-couches were a joke in most of them.”

    “You aren't kidding there.” said William. “The other four times were all in cryo, so I don't remember anything about the trips at all.”

    “Ah, those don't count. You weren't a passenger, you were cargo.” came the reply. “And the landers were probably just doing in system stuff unless I miss my guess.”

    “You don't.” said William.

    “Then this'll be your first trip into the pocket.” finished Roger. “You never forget the first time you hit the pocket, it feels like your entire body gets turned into a really long string before it snaps into place.”

    “That's what it feels like?” asked William intrigued. “I always heard it felt like all your hairs were standing on end from a mild shock.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:04 No.12082284
    “Nah.” said Roger shaking his head. “I've never heard that anywhere. Everyone kinda reacts a little differently to it though. Me, I feel stretched really bad. Jeff told me once that he always feels like someone smacked him in the back of the head and gave him a splitting headache for a bare second. Like I said, everyone is always a little different. Don't worry about it, it'll take us about three days or so to hit system edge before we open the pocket up. Just don't eat anything before it comes online. You never know if you are one of the guys who are gonna puke.”

    “I'll keep that in mind.” said William. “Anything going on?”

    “Poker.” Roger said gesturing to the table between them. “Want to jump in?”

    “Don't mind if I do.”

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:05 No.12082289
    “Hawkins!” shouted a loud voice from outside the maintenance panel that Nate found himself half-perched inside of.

    “Over here!” said Nate as he carefully replaced a burned out piece of the emitter relay. Nate slid the final relay assembly interlock into place and began the lengthy process of depolarizing the relay juncture. “Just a moment!”

    Nate slid out of the panel with great care to not touch any of the positively charged relay. Finally free of the cramped panel he stretched his back and removed the protective gloves that covered his hands.

    “Someone need me?” he asked to the busy technicians working around him to resolve the emitter imbalance.

    “Over here!” came the reply from where Seok stood beside Kinzer reactor that powered the engine of the same name.

    Nate strode confidently around the clusters of replacement parts for the emitter relay and ended up standing beside where Seok had a holographic diagram of the emitter pulled up on a display.

    “Ah, Hawkins.” said Seok. “Get the interlock replaced alright?”

    “I told you Seok, call me Nate.” Nate said stretching once more. “The interlocks are in place, and the computer is cycling through the depolarization procedure.”

    Seok nodded his head and tapped at a section of the holo display.

    “Good to know. Here's where Nogai thinks the problem started.” said Seok as the display showed an expanded view of the Kinzer drive's starboard shock absorber. “I'm not sure he's right about it, but his gut is fairly certain that's where the problem is, or at least, where it started.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:06 No.12082296
    Nate stared at the diagram and nodded slowly. He had learned from his short association with Seok that when his partner mentioned the chief technician's gut feelings, they were more often than not correct.

    “Can you get me a rotating 3d view of what the connector between the shock absorption pad and the hull is supposed to look like?” asked Nate as his eyes fixed on what he suspected was the problem.

    “Sure.” agreed Seok as the commands he entered began to rotate the model.

    “Hmm.” murmured Nate as he studied the connector brackets of the shock absorption pad. “I can't tell for certain, but I think he's right. The primary shock absorbers are fine, it's nearly impossible for those to screw up unless they fall off. But the second stage absorbers...”

    Nate trailed off for a moment and narrowed his eyes in thought as he studied the rotating diagram intently.

    “What are you thinking?” pushed Seok. “This kind of stuff isn't really my expertise. Most of the time I end up dealing with the reactor itself or the interlocks, not the external parts of the drive.”

    “I think.” began Nate, his focus still directed to the holo display. “I'm not utterly certain, but I think one or more of the secondary recoil buffers are misaligned and causing mechanical resonance when they absorb the shock from the drive.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:07 No.12082305
    Nate's hands flashed across the display causing the diagram to be replaced by a single exterior view of the shock absorbers in question. Nate stared intently as he panned the view across three separate recoil buffers before finding what he was looking for.

    “There it is.” Nate said decisively. “The weld on that armature looks slightly warped.”

    Seok stepped closer to the display and stared as Nate traced his finger across the weld in question.

    “It almost looks good to go, but you can see the marks where the weld has twisted against the plate.” said Nate as he intensified the image. “When the emitter fired last and blew the interlock relay, the excessive charge probably wasn't put out evenly, so the recoil pad had uneven pressure against it. It's probably happened a few times and never been a problem before now.”

    Seok nodded in agreement and whistled tunelessly through his teeth.

    “But the weld wouldn't warp like that because of just one uneven recoil. It's not going to be just a one time problem, it's built up over time.” said Seok as Nate stepped away from the display controls allowing him to take over. “Someone's probably going to have to go out there to fix it too.”

    “Don't look at me.” Nate said shaking his head. “I've never been in space before.”

    “Don't worry about it.” said Seok as he keyed his ear-com. “I wouldn't let them put you out there to break a weld anyway. We have other techs who do EVA work.”

    “Good.” said Nate, consciously aware of how limited his experience was. “I could probably get the weld broken and repaired, but...”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:08 No.12082312
    “But it's not exactly a trial and error operation.” agreed Seok. “Like I said, we'll pass it along and get it taken care of. While I'm finding someone to take care of it, why don't you get started on the next relay.”

    “Not a problem.” said Nate as he turned away and began walking towards the next access panel.

    “Hey, Nate.” Seok said.

    Nate turned around and stared at his partner questioningly.

    “Good find.” said Seok. “You did good.”

    “Thanks man.” Nate said, grinning. “That's good to know.”

    As Nate walked away, Seok turned to the holo display and closed the diagram. His ear-com buzzed as Nogai Priatap, the chief technician commed him.

    “And?” came the faintly accented question from the chief technician.

    “He found it faster than I thought he would.” said Seok as he shut down the holo display and began pulling up the on duty technician roster. “He's a better tech than he should be, after having worked for Jennings.”

    “They might make crap, but that's more of a design problem than a technical issue.” Nogai said in reply. “Other than that he doing alright?”

    “Just fine.” nodded Seok as he made notation on the duty roster for the next shift to repair the twisted weld.. “No difficulty with replacing the relays, and he's got a good head for diagnostics. I think he's going to work out fine.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:09 No.12082320
    “Glad to hear it.” said the chief technician. “Good people don't come our way often enough, especially good people who are working for free.”

    Seok chuckled to himself as he closed the duty roster and began making his way to the next relay access panel. Finishing replacement of the fused relays was complete by the end of the shift, and by the time Nate and the rest of Gold shift ended their work, repair of the twisted welds was already well underway.

    Repairing the welds took two shifts to complete but before Nate returned to duty, the Kinzer drive of the Carthage was once again pushing the ship towards the outer reaches of the Heinlein system. Finally having reached the end of his second shift with the technical crew and returned to his cabin, Nate stretched out on his bunk and had nearly dozed off when his ear-com buzzed. Tiredly Nate accepted the connection and his eyes rose in surprise as Williams harsh voice assaulted his ears.

    “Thanks for getting the shaking stopped.” said William brusquely. “If it had kept on much longer I think I'd tried walking back to Heinlein and turning myself in.”

    “If you think it was bad in your cabin, you should have felt it down in the engineering compartment.” smiled Nate. “It felt like you were kicking me in the chest over and over again. How'd you hear it was me that found the problem anyway?”

    “I asked one of the techs when I saw him in the galley.” replied William. “He told me that the new tech found it, and I figured it had to be you.”

    “Ah.” smiled Nate tiredly.

    “I'll let you go.” said William as he closed the connection.. “Thanks again.”

    Nate smiled to himself as he drifted off to sleep. He had never been thanked for doing his job before; the appreciation felt pretty good he thought.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:10 No.12082327
    The trip took a further two days as the Carthage accelerated steadily before finally making it's way into the heliosphere. Lugh found himself seated on the bridge when the Carthage began slowing as it entered the termination shock between the cold depths of space and the Heinlein system's magnetic field. His gaze flickered to where Sergei sat behind the astrogation panel and nodded.

    “Course laid in?” asked Lugh.

    “I've updated it twice in the last day captain.” came the reply. “All the checks are good and it's set. Give the word and I'll spin up the pocket drive.”

    “Langley?” began Lugh as he turned to where his second in command sat.

    “Already shutting down the external sensors Lugh.” interrupted Langley as he put word to deed. “I've got the long range sensors shut down, external visuals are off line, and the laser scanners are coming down now.”

    A few moments later Langley spoke once more.

    “That's the last of them, everything's shut down.”

    Lugh nodded to himself as he took a deep breath before disengaging the astrogation panel override from his station and looked once more at Sergei.

    “Hit it.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:11 No.12082331
    Without a word Sergei glanced down at the display before him and began to slowly force power to the pocket drive.

    An outside observer would be momentarily blinded as before the Carthage a microscopic sun erupted into existence before collapsing as waves of gravitons bombarded it.

    Lugh shivered as his perception momentarily became skewed. Time seemed to stop around him as he struggled to draw breath between one second and the next. Finally, the ship was drug into the pocket and Lugh felt himself being stretched impossibly as the pocket closed around the Carthage.

    A blinding wave of bright light and pain flashed over him before vanishing as fast as it has come and opening his eyes Lugh found himself clutching tightly to the arms of his seat. He took a deep breath and blinked his eyes momentarily, and allowed the nausea he felt to pass. When again Lugh opened his eyes and glanced down at the display before him the pain and nausea were gone.

    “Pocket formation successful captain.” Sergei said, his normally exuberant personality subdued momentarily. “The computer shows clean closure, and our plotted course readings are on target.”

    “Langley?” asked Lugh through a dry mouth.

    “Running diagnostics now.” came the reply. “System is showing normal readings on all scanners Lugh. I've got green lights all across the board.”
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:12 No.12082337
    “Excellent.” nodded Lugh. “What's our estimated time until arrival Sergei?”

    The astrogator rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands for a moment before glancing back at his display.

    “I make it about four and a half days captain.” Sergei said after a moment. “Possibly a little less, but four days is the best time estimate.”

    “Alright gentlemen.” Lugh said stretching in his seat as behind him, his second officer's board came alive with status updates. “Langley, get me a check on the crew, let's make certain nobody had a bad transmission. ”

    “Already coming in.” said Langley as his eyes flickered across the data before him. “No real problems so far, Nogai's reporting all systems nominal.”

    “Good.” said Lugh. “That was worse than normal Sergei. Before we bring the drive up again I want you to go over everything and make certain there isn't anything wrong.”

    Silence reigned for a few minutes as various members of the crew reported in.

    “Almost everyone looks fine Lugh.” Langley said at last. “Only one report coming in that's abnormal.”

    “Abnormal?” Lughs head swiveled as he turned to face where Langley sat. “How so?”

    “Stemmler down in Beta Two Aft is reporting a problem with the new guy, Richardson.”

    “What kind of problem?” demanded Lugh as he felt himself go cold. Richardson had been housed in Beta Two simply because Lugh and Vitor both believed that Stemmler could stop any problems with him before they got out of hand. If that wasn't true then it could be a serious problem.

    “I'm not quite sure.” replied Langley “Vitor's already on his way down.”

    “Get me an update as soon as you can.” said Lugh.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:13 No.12082345
    Vitor frowned as he raced down the corridor towards the hatchway to Beta Two. The group of men and women that stood outside of the open hatchway with worried and concerned faces did not give him confidence in the situation. When he finally came to a stop and pushed his way through the press of bodies he found his passage blocked by the wide bulk of one of his primary section leaders, Carter Risted.

    “Status?” asked Vitor as he tried to squeeze past Carter to no avail.

    “That new son of a bitch went crazy.” came the reply that Vitor dreaded.

    “Explain.” demanded Vitor curtly.

    Carter shrugged uncertainly.

    “One moment we were all sitting there waiting for the transmission shock to pass, and the next thing I know Richardson is throwing his seat and screaming bloody murder.” said Carter visibly shaken. “Pyotr and me tackled him thinking it would pass once we got him calmed down, and he shook us off like we were nothing.”

    Vitor's eyes widened as Carter stepped aside slightly to allow him to look into the room beyond the hatch. The sight of the chairs strewn haphazardly across the floor, and the table laying upside-down didn't surprise him. Pyotr laying face down on the floor did surprise him however, as did the sight of a battered Ray Stemmler clutching a writhing William Richardson in a chokehold in the back of the room.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:14 No.12082348
    “He should have passed out in that hold a few minutes back.” said Carter almost apologetically. “The bastard's tough, I'll give him that. When Ray latched onto him, I thought it would be over quick, but he didn't seem to notice until Ray slammed him face first into the wall.”

    Carter gestured to a faint smear of blood that marred the wall beside where Pyotr lay.

    “It should be over in a moment, Richardson's mostly stopped moving.”

    Vitor nodded silently as he watched William feeble movements slow before finally stopping. Ray held the chokehold on for a moment longer before releasing it and lowering William to the ground. Vitor tapped Carter aside and stepped into the room as Ray straightened back up.

    “Stemmler?” began Vitor before stopping as Ray raised a hand and gestured for quiet.

    “He'll be fine.” said Ray as he crossed the room and knelt to check on Pyotr. “We were talking a day or two ago. Richardson was part of the Coalition Marines a while back, I'm not certain what they did exactly, but he mentioned some genetic tweaking and enhancements that he had done.”

    Vitor nodded silently as Carter stepped around to Ray and the two of them helped Pyotr unsteadily to his feet.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:14 No.12082353
    “Like I said, he should be find, but we probably want to get Chan Yu to take a look at him.” finished Ray as he and Carter half carried Pyotr towards his cabin. “Carter and I'll get him to medical.”

    Vitor stepped out the hatchway and activated his ear-com.

    “The situation is under control Captain.” he said making his way through the press of people once more.

    “What happened?” Lugh asked in his ear.

    “Richardson had a bad transmission. We're going to take him to medical.” said Vitor simply. “Like I said, it's under control.”

    “Keep me updated.” said Lugh signing off.

    “Will do.” Vitor said with a sigh.

    * * *
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:15 No.12082362
    And that gentlemen is where the story must momentarily pause, as I haven't finished writing chapter 16 yet.

    Any thoughts readers?
    >> Anonymous 09/14/10(Tue)04:37 No.12082551

    Trying to make it through the massive wall of text that just assaulted my eyes. Maybe in a few.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)04:55 No.12082671
    Well folks, I've gotten the introduction for chapter 16 done, and have started on the chapter itself, anyone want me to post it up as I go, or just wait?
    >> Anonymous 09/14/10(Tue)06:03 No.12083036
    Take your time.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)06:09 No.12083059

    About half way through chapter 16 right now, hitting a bit of a wall for where I am wanting to take this with regards to explaining why William reacted the way he did and the repercussions of his going berserk.

    I've got about 2000 words done for the chapter so far, and I think I'm going to call it a night and work on it more in the morning with a clear head.

    Once I get sixteen finished, seventeen and eighteen should be a snap since I have most of those two written out already. I'll probably just post those tomorrow night or the next, depending on how work goes tomorrow.

    I'm going to go rack out, if anyone wants to drop me a message or question my e-mail is
    >> Anonymous 09/14/10(Tue)06:48 No.12083238
    >About twenty three billion years old

    ...Wha? That's damn near twice as old as the current age of the universe.
    >> Bitter Old Man 09/14/10(Tue)14:16 No.12086286

    That's the current theory yes. However, if you look at the planetary systems I posted in either the first or second thread, it in the planetary/system listing it mentions Sirius having a black dwarf star that has caused people to reevaluate the actual age of the galaxy to much much older than once thought.

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