The Right Things
Andrew J. Talon
Disclaimer:I don't own Atomic Betty, nor am I making any profit from this endeavor.
Sixth (or tenth) chapter of the series, depending upon your POV. But no matter the number, I hope you enjoy it!
Beatrix Brown had fought numerous battles before, as a Galactic Guardian, and later as an admiral with the Allied Earth Spacefleet. And over a dozen of them had been against enemies that should have won, but instead were crushed through the Earth military's superior training and thinking.
But, this was one battle Beatrix knew that all the training and thinking in the world couldn't win.
"So, what's the ETA of the Messiah?" Beatrix asked from the plotting table of the Earth battleship Bahamut. The sensor officer, or SO, looked up from her screens with a disheartened look on her face.
"Ten minutes, ma'am." Beatrix cursed under her breath. The instant the Messiah had been reported captured, she'd been beamed up and recalled to active duty. She had, after all, assisted in designing several systems for the vessel, though she had not seen the full product owing to her retirement.
"XO, order the Saratoga and Akagi task forces to move their fighters to screen us," Beatrix stated clearly. "And have the Macarthur's battlegroup take point. If I know Degill, he'll drop out of hyper a little out of the moon's orbit."
"Admiral…?" She turned to look upon her nervous-looking executive officer-the captain of the Bahamut. Mentally she reviewed his file… Never been in actual combat before, he was mainly an engineering officer. He had been given command of the Bahamut because a lot of their captains were laid up after a disastrous training exercise.
"Do we… Can we win this thing?" He asked frankly. Beatrix reflected momentarily on one of her favorite scenes from Gettysburg: "Up men, and to your posts! And let no man forget today that you are from old Virginia!" Spoken by General Pickett, just before his ill-fated charge on the Union line. It was there that the Confederacy truly lost the war-The remaining two years of the Civil War were composed only of desperate fighting against the inevitable.
"I really don't know," she answered honestly. She turned back to the plotting table, without another word, and the captain had the sense to not press further.
Betty scowled, climbing through yet another access hatch into a maintenance section of the Messiah. The ship seemed to have endless corridors and ladders and doors, and she felt she was still nowhere near the bridge.
Not like I could do much even if I got up there, she reflected sourly. She squeezed through a pair of pipes and continued her trek. She had no weapons, and her fighting skills, while certainly exceptional, could not even the odds enough with at least a dozen of her worst enemies in a single, cramped space.
Betty executed a perfect swing up to a ladder, climbing up and nearly bumping her head on an exposed pipe. She cursed under her breath, before breaking into a full sprint. She could see a sign that said "Main Bridge" up ahead on a holoscreen! If she were fast enough…
"Stop right there, former Atomic Betty!" Betty skidded to a halt, glaring at Atomic Rodger and Dodger, identical blasters pointed at her.
"Sorry about this, but we can't let you go any further," Roger spoke. Dodger smirked.
"At least, towards the bridge," he laughed lewdly, looking her up and down. Betty's fists clenched and her green eyes narrowed in fury. With years of practice and experience, she launched herself at the twin men, a foot and fist connecting with Roger and Dodger's faces, respectively. They both went down hard, and Betty looked over their skinny, malnourished forms with a sigh. They hadn't fared very well on the prison planet, no doubt about it…
A freeze beam glanced her scalp, though she moved just enough to prevent her head being turned into a block of ice. Kicking off from the bulkhead, she flew into Dr Cerebrum, sending the mad cyborg's brain jar smashing on the deck as he screamed in agony. Betty grabbed the freeze ray he'd been packing and hurried on, finally coming to a halt outside the main bridge.
"Sorry Atomic Betty! But it looks like you're out of luck. Bridge is closed!" Cackled Maximus over the intercom. Betty snarled, and fired the freeze ray at the hatch. She then kicked it with all her might… Only to fall back on her butt with an ungraceful "oof!"
She glowered at the door, discretely rubbing her stinging backside. "Lousy composite armor…" There had to be a way in… There had to be!
Degill cursed loudly as the first wave of his fleet exploded upon their exit from hyperspace. Two dozen Starcruisers, gone, thanks to the uncanny accuracy of the Earth long-range defensive kinetic missile batteries. Beatrix Brown, another traitor, had no doubt arranged for the huge mass driver satellite weapons to be positioned in just the right way to intercept them.
Well, no matter. She can't stop us all!
"Second wave, engage alternate attack plan!" Degill ordered. Another twelve cruisers jumped out of hyperspace behind Earth's satellite defense network, opening fire on the unshielded mass drivers and destroying several of them. A number of Earth vessels moved to engage them, but the cruisers were able to jump away before they were destroyed. Degill nodded, grinning maniacally.
"Continue the attack! We must draw their forces away from our main avenue of assault… Begin charging the primary weapons array!" Degill ordered.
"Keep them away from the planet," shouted Beatrix over the red alert klaxons on the Bahamut. "Have the Revere and Crocus move to support the Pacific satellite defenses!"
Bahamut herself was easily the second-most powerful starship in the Earth fleet, aside from the now-captured Messiah. In addition to heavy rail guns and missile batteries, she used the new positron beam cannons that were slated to become the primary weapons of all future Earth ships. Messiah's binary fusion cannons were much more powerful, but the positron cannons were easier to build and cheaper to develop. Bahamut used her positrons to good affect, taking out two Starcruisers with a single salvo. As a swarm of drone fighters approached, her defensive cannons and fighters screened her from harm, as she sent forth another barrage of cannon and missile fire at the raiding GG starships.
"They keep trying to lure us away, admiral, presumably to give Messiah a clear shot at Earth," her second-in-command mused. "But, how do they expect to get through our defenses this way?" Beatrix frowned, and gave the matter some thought. Messiah had yet to appear-So far, they were just dealing with the Galactic Guardian small fry: Easily dealt with by their superior forces. What's Degill waiting for? All he's doing is wasting his ships and crews this way…
Kilrabi frowned. They had lost a tenth of their forces, and still Admiral Degill would not give the order for the Omega and Messiah to join the battle. At this rate, he calculated, they would reach 50 casualties in a matter of minutes.
"Admiral?" Degill shook his head.
"SILENCE!" The entire bridge froze at the Admiral's outburst. Kilrabi tried again.
"Admiral, sir? Should we not support our-?"
"NO!" Degill stood, furious. "We must lose the proper number of troops and ships! Our victory cannot be overwhelming! If it is, the people of the galaxy will never believe that we defeated Earth! The lion of the galaxy!"
"Sir! I must protest!" Kilrabi shook his head, gritting his teeth. "Those are good men and women and robots dying out there! They don't have to!" Degill turned to Kilrabi, and the Madagascarian could at last see the gleam of madness in the fish admiral's eyes.
"I am the Admiral! Life and death are purely my domain! How dare you question me, the future ruler of the Universe! The future GOD!" Kilrabi turned to the security officers at the bridge entrance.
"I am relieving Admiral Degill of command. He is not fit to continue in his position-"
"I AM THE ADMIRAL! STAY WHERE YOU ARE OR DIE!" Degill bellowed. The guards, looking between the Admiral and Kilrabi, finally turned their weapons on Degill.
"Sir, please come with us?" Degill slammed his fin on the control panel of his chair.
"NEPHEW! DESTROY THE EARTH! I have been betrayed! MUTINY! MUTINY-!" Kilrabi fired his laser, stunning the fish admiral and dropping him to the deck. He ran to the control panel.
"Messiah, this is Fleet Command, belay that last order! Repeat, belay that last order!"
The sensor officer looked up, gravely.
"Sir, the Messiah has jumped to normal space!"
Betty took her twentieth deep breath, making sure her goggles were secure. She stared at the airlock door for what felt like the hundredth time. The wild swirls of color that marked hyperspace vanished, giving way to the beautiful blue and white surface of Earth.
It was now or never. She opened the airlock, and swung out into the hard vacuum of space.
The cold was almost unbearable. Her blood and skin began to scream in pain, even as she kept her mouth shut tightly. Her ear plugs had kept her from going death due to the extreme pressure change, but the airless environment was slowly driving her mad nevertheless.
She pulled her way across the hull, to the manual override on the side of the forward hull. She ripped open the hatch, and looked over the emergency controls for the ship's fusion array. The feeling of drowning began to edge in over her senses, even as she began quickly rearranging the control crystals. Betty had seen this on the schematics Lamprey had brought up while they were all on the shuttle… Her photographic memory had snapped it up.
The last control in place, she twisted the control mechanism. Seeing the panel light up, she couldn't help but smile as the main power conduits for the Messiah's fusion cannon shut themselves off.
A power surge ripped through the hull as the cannon fired, blowing out a huge portion of the hull and sending Betty spinning into space. She didn't care… She could see Earth, her home, and even with all the pain it had brought her, she felt happy it was safe.
Then a bright white light consumed her, and she knew no more.
Lamphrey cursed in every language he knew as the power conduits on the Messiah's main cannons overloaded. While there were safeguards to prevent such an event from totally destroying the ship (and thus a good portion of a solar system), the important ones had been disabled from the outside manually. That is, the ones that would only vaporize the Messiah herself, and keep the surrounding area safe. A most ingenious design feature, Lamphrey had to admit.
"DAMNIT! Maximus, get us out of here!" The Lynx cursed back.
"If I do that, you stupid fish, our core will overload all that much more quickly!" Maximus snarled. "The chance to destroy Earth ruined, and I get to die with fools at the same time! CURSE YOU ATOMIC BETTY!"
Even as Maximus roared, the Messiah's hull began to blister and glow blue-hot, unstable subspace-enhanced fusion energy ripping through its delicate conduits and containment systems. The shields conformed to the hull, ready to collapse the entire vessel in on itself to destroy itself and keep Earth nearby from suffering even a mild rise in ambient radiation. However, this did not stop a single starship from firing its grapples and towing the huge ship through a hyperspace portal.
"Glad you miscalculated that last jump, Avernok," Captain Sparrow grinned, as the Titan's crew went to collision stations. "Otherwise, some kind of hyperspace implosion would have killed us all."
"Yes. Lucky like that I guess," Avernok shrugged, as the Titan dragged the huge Messiah into hyperspace. "So, how long we tow?"
"We've got to make sure she doesn't lose her containment shell, or the entire solar system is toast," Sparrow stated flatly. "How soon until we're out of the danger range?"
"Current speed… Twenty seconds." Avernok look at his captain. "Explosion… Nineteen seconds."
"Well, let's see if we can trim some time off, shall we?" The Titan's engines, already straining to tug the massive Messiah, positively screamed as they were pushed to their absolute limits. The starship rattled, seemingly about to rip apart at the seams. Sparrow held her breath.
"CLEAR!" Avernok screamed, just as the Messiah on the viewscreen began to lose containment, despite her vaunted safety systems.
"Beam the survivors aboard and drop out of hyper NOW!" Sparrow roared. Just as the shockwave began to overtake them, the Messiah and the spiraling blue kaleidoscope of hyperspace ceded to the shimmering darkness of space. The bridge let out a collective sigh of relief.
"Avernok… Remind me to give you a promotion, after I recommend you and everyone else aboard for a Medal of Honor," Sparrow said at last, shaking slightly from the adrenaline. Avernok grinned weakly back.
"Sir… Permission throw up?"
"Granted. Just clean it up afterwards…"
Betty groaned, the feeling of feeling coming back to her. Mentally, she reviewed her situation:
No lost limbs… Breathing… Hearing and touch seem okay… Smell… Peroxide. Taste… Ugh. Yeah, it's there allright. Sight… She opened her eyes, then squinted into the bright light overhead.
"For once, I'm glad the Galactic Guardians poked around in your head," chuckled a dry, familiar voice to her right. She shifted her head, blinking awkwardly.
"… Granny?" Beatrix Brown, in full battle dress, smiled down at her granddaughter. Betty noted that her hand was clasped in her grandmother's whitened fist, and seemed to hurt a bit.
"You saw the emergency scuttling system, I take it?" Beatrix shrugged. "We lifted it off Lamphrey's ship's computers. I'm glad you spotted it. Even more glad he didn't pay it much thought." Betty frowned.
"Earth… The crew?"
"All safe, thanks in large part to you… And to the Titan." Beatrix grinned impishly. "But you can imagine that I'm more concerned about you at the moment. What, exactly, were you thinking, jumping out an airlock without protection? You didn't even have your bubble helmet."
"Save the Earth… And the Universe, by extension," Betty stated dully. Beatrix raised a white eyebrow.
"Uh huh… And the real reason?"
"… You. Mom. Dad. Noah. Paloma… Sparky. X-5." Betty smiled and closed her eyes. "Even Penelope, I guess."
"She did watch you get imprisoned," Beatrix reminded her. Betty shook her head.
"She also defended me… Got the death penalty taken off the table."
"Probably why she went into politics… To try and assuage her guilt," Beatrix huffed. Betty shook her head, still smiling.
"I try to think she had a change of heart."
"Heh, keep dreaming." Beatrix leaned back in her chair and sighed deeply. "There will be another inquiry, of course, but the Messiah's black box was recovered. So, I think that this time, you'll get a much better reception at home."
"There's talk of giving you the Omega, once she's refit for use by the Allied Fleet," Beatrix grinned.
"Nope. It's not everyday the people who wanted their revenge on you get saved by the very person they hate the most… Especially when it's broadcast planet-wide," Beatrix pointed out with a wry smile.
"Good point…" Betty frowned. Something had been nagging her…
"Yes Betty dear?"
"What's going to happen to X-5?"
"He was aquitted of all charges. It seems that, while X-5 was helping in the construction of the Messiah, Degill took remote control and downloaded enough of the plans to build his own copy. But, the GG device has been removed, and he's good to go. And, of course, Degill himself is on ice."
"His crew mutinied and surrendered. Apparently, he'd gone nuts."
"Why am I not surprised…?"
"Because you're getting older and wiser." Beatrix grinned.
"Wish it didn't involve decompression sickness…"
"Heh, tell me about it."
To be concluded!