St. Kitts system
21st February 3061
"Captain Sparks to the Bridge!" The PA system woke Lenny Sparks from his sleep and sent him tumbling out of his bed and across the room, "Captain Sparks to the Bridge please!"
"Son of a Bitch!" He swore, pulling on his boots and running his fingers through his reseeding grey hair: 30-years in the service of House Steiner-Davion and he was relegated to playing nursemaid to an eccentric billionaire with a dream. Sure, it paid better than the Navy had, and he didn't have to put up with the politics, but he still didn't like it. Grumbling, he mad his way along the corridor to the bridge, the magnetic plants on the bottom of his boots griping the deck.
"What kept you?" Maxwell Keys, his employer looked at him over the chart table.
"I was asleep." Sparks glared at the man, "I often am at 3m. What's so important that I had to be here?"
"Team two think they've found something on the northern continent." Keys pointed at an area circled on a map, "They think it could be Star League weapons cash."
"It's a possibility: St. Kitts was a Hegemony world. You still think there'll be anything down there worth digging for?"
"Well a) my research showed that St. Kitts was rendered uninhabitable very early on in the First Succession War, so there's a good chance that any cashes are intact, and b) I'm hoping to use the ships guns to blow a hole through the rock."
"What the hell!" Sparks looked up, "There is now way I'm using even one round for anything other than self defence until you've worked out how to replace them."
"Will you relax for a minuet?" Keys sighed, "You can't just walk into a gun shop and buy shells for a Class-10 Naval Autocannon like they're 9mm's. Hell, you can't even get them on Outreach, Solaris VII or even Galatea. My contacts in the military are working on it, but we have to go slow or people are going to want to know what we want with NAC's."
"Don't want anyone to know you've got your own little Warship?"
"You know what its like at the moment: sure, I can come clean when I find the odd 'Mech or tank, but try explaining where you got a Mk-39 Vincent class Corvette from and why I didn't hand it over to the Admiralty."
"Afraid you'll lose all your toys?"
"Afraid you'll lose your life? Think about it: we're in a system that doesn't look like it's been visited for over 300-years. There's no law out here, no one to go running to if things go bad. As far as the rest of the universe knows, the Lewis Carroll is our base ship, and JumpShips are a lot more vulnerable than any Warship."
"You've read too many conspiracy novels." Sparks laughed, "This isn't the Capellan Confederation; people don't just disappear."
"Yeah?" Keys eyed the other man, "Then how come that government contract to look for that Battleship out by the Tortuga Domains after I publicly said I supported Prince Victor?"
"If I remember correctly, you told a Lyran officer that you questioned the Archon-Princes species, paternity and sexual history while externally inebriated. And you managed to do it while a reporter for some tabloid newspaper was standing just behind you."
"We're getting off the point: can we blow a hole in the rock or not?"
"Maybe…" Sparks picked up the map, "The ground team to a seismic survey?"
"Solid granite for ten meters and then nothing but open air for at least one hundred." Keys handed him a second piece of paper, "Think we can do it?"
"Oh I know we can blow through it, I'm just wondering about what's below."
"When that roof gives way there is going to be tens of thousands of tons of rock falling down. Anything below is going to be smashed."
"It's a risk I'm willing to take."
"You maybe, but what about the rest of us?" Sparks asked, "We're working on a percentage bases here: we find nothing, or it's smashed, we don't get paid."
"If there's nothing there or it's too badly damaged to recover, I'll pay the crew out of my own pocket." Keys assured him, "Come one: you want to know what's down there as much as I do."
"Ok, but it'd better not be another tomb." Sparks shook his head as he drifted to the weapons station, "They give me the creep…"
Dig sight 2
2nd March 3061
"Can we get this over with please?" Sparks complained over his NBC-suits com-link, "This thing is starting to chafe in some very uncomfortable places."
"Take it off if you like." Keys smiled, "The environmental team say it's safe."
"Call me a pessimist, but this place was hit by god-knows-what and I don't feel like taking any chances. And if it's so safe, why are you in a suite?"
"I'm paranoid." Keys looked at the hole leading down into the darkness. He pulled a couple of glow-sticks from his belt and cracked them. Shaking them till they started to glow, he dropped them into the depths, "Look out below."
"Don't start with that shit: I'm already getting a wired feeling about this." Sparks shivered, checking the charge on his laser rifle before slinging it over his shoulder, "Heads or tails?"
"Ok." Sparks pulled a coin from his pocket and tossed it into the air before catching it and laying it on the back of his left hand, "Tails: you go first."
"I hate this part." Keys lifted a safety line linked to the nearby rover and clipped it to the harness on his belt, "How far down?"
"A long way, maybe 150-meters."
"I hate heights."
"Think about it this way: it's not so much a height as a depth."
"That's a real comfort." Keys set the rope over a pulley set over the edge of the crater and edged round, "Why do I do this?"
"No point looking at me for answers." Sparks looked down into the dark, "I've been asking myself the same question for years." He changed the channel on his com-link, "Control this is Recon-1: we are commencing our descent now."
Dig sight 2
2nd March 3061
"213-meters exactly." Sparks smiled as his feet touched ground. The smile faded as he looked around, "Where the hell did all the rubble go?"
"Rubble?" Keys looked round, "What rubble?"
"The small mountain of rock and earth we blasted through to get down here?"
"Yeah, 'oh', it's gone."
"Do I look like the reincarnation of Jerome Blake to you?" Sparks glared at his employer, "How the hell should I know?"
"You're the expert…"
"No, I'm not: I'm just the guy you hired to take you from A to B. I'm not an archaeologist, or a engineer, or a physic: I just blow stuff up."
"Well, do you have any ideas?"
"Yes." Sparks pulled a huge flashlight from his belt and switched it on, the million-candle bulb sending out a beam of light that illuminated the darkness, "We look for a door."
Star League R&D facility #3019
2nd March 3061
"We look for a door." Sparks' voice echoed around the empty room, disturbing the layer of dust that had built up over the speaker system.
A low hum started to come from the mainframe in the middle of the room as it powered up. Security monitors flicked into life, showing hundreds of corridors and rooms, all deserted. The main screen flashed into life.
Initiating A.I start up…
System update complete…
Diagnostics complete: base at 98 operational capability…
Warning: breach in section 10!
Security alert: intruders in section 10!
Internal defence systems activated…
"We've been walking for hours and haven't found anything yet." Keys protested as they walked along yet another corridor, "Can't we stop for a rest?"
"No." Sparks snapped, growing intolerant of his employers complaining, "We need to find a working computer terminal."
"One of my ancestors was a Colonel in the SLDF, and I inherited her diary. I have all her old access codes memorised: if we can find a working computer, I may be able to power up some systems."
"You could get the base operational?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of some lights and a map…" Sparks stopped, looking round as he heard a low whining sound, "GET DOWN!" He jumped to the side, knocking Keys off his feet as a laser bolt shot down the corridor.
The two men rolled into an alcove as more beams of intense light stabbed down the corridor, burring dark scares on the walls.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!" Keys yelled, terrified.
"Some sort of automated defence system. Now stay down." Sparks pressed a button on the side of his helmet and an armoured visor slipped down other his eyes. More plates of metal slipped into position on his environmental suit, protecting venerable sections. He reached over and pressed an identical button on Keys' suit, the posses repeating its self on his employer, "Now you see why I insisted we buy these things after we found them in the shop on Outreach: original SLDF issue hazards environment suits."
"Will they protect us?"
"From a laser? I doubt it: these are standard issue, not combat models." Sparks pulled a cylinder from his belt and pressed a button on the top, "When I run, you follow." He tossed the cylinder down the corridor and covered his head.
An intense white light filled the corridor and Sparks jumped to his feet, running as fast as he could towards the flair, Keys doing his best to keep up with the retired naval officer.
The two men skidded to a halt against a wall underneath what looked like an oversized CCTV camera. Sparks reached up to the power cables leading into it and yanked them out, sparks flying everywhere.
"Just what the hell have we found here?" He asked the panting Keys.
The core computer hummed.
Internal defences in corridor 7RJ neutralised…
Anti-intruder gas ineffective…
Warship detected in orbit…
IIF transponder non SLDF…
Warship presumed hostile…
Initiating Defence protocol 13…
St. Kitts system
2nd March 3061
Leftenant Olivia Schneider sat at her duty station on the corvettes bridge, brooding: she'd hoped for a career in the Navy of her native Lyran Alliance, but her scores had been too low to gain her a combat posting.
Rather than spend the rest of her career behind a desk, she'd resigned her commission and headed for Outreach, hoping to get a spot on a Mercenary DropShip that might allow her to see combat from time to time. It was there that she'd met Lenny Sparks and Max Keys, and had been offered a job as second officer on the Lewis Carroll, the aged Scout-class JumpShip they had been using as a mobile base for their salvage business.
She'd taken the job, not even thinking in her wildest dreams that the two men had been secretly looking for crew for an honest-to-god Warship.
A slight hint of movement caught the corner of her eye, and she looked out the main window just in time to see the DropShip H.G Wells explode in a flash of light. She looked at the fireball that had been the teams support ship, too dumbstruck to answer the mired of alarms the Oklahoma's computer was issuing.
She never even saw the shot that blasted the ship to scrap.
2nd March 3061
"Recon-1, this is Recon-2: we've lost contact with Control and the Wells'." The static laden voice crackled across the radio, "Request instructions."
"Recon-2, this is Recon-1: Say again?" Sparks tapped the com-link control on the wrist of his suit.
"We have lost all contact with the Oklahoma and the Wells'. What do we do?"
"Anything on the emergency band?"
"I seriously don't like this." Sparks looked at Keys, then tapped the radio again, "Get everybody down into the crater and find a defendable position. Take only what supplies you can and be on the lookout for automated defences."
"Say what, sir?"
"Just get in the dammed hole and keep your head down." Sparks cut the link before turning to his employer, "Anything you'd like to say at this point, Maxwell?"
"I know nothing about this." Keys held up his hands defensively.
"You lying sack-of-shit!" Sparks lifted the other man up by the throat and pushed him against the wall, "What the hell is this place?"
"I'm not sure." Keys gasped, trying the breath, "Records are incomplete. Some sort of R&D centre…"
"You bastard!" Sparks snarled, "If my people have been killed because of this, then your life is forfeit. You get that?" He dropped Keys to the ground.
"I…I understand." Keys gasped.
Hostile Warship and DropShip destroyed by orbital battery #9…
Intruders still infiltrating vie breach in section 10…
Incrassating internal base temperature to 200-degrees…
To Be Continued…