Thursday, November 20, 2008



We've had no Ellie sightings since she apparently entered our cabin. We've found no bloody rotting corpses or any trace of her whatsoever. It still doesn't mean that everyone isn't on edge. Xyllan has sent out steady patrols to keep searching the ship for her.

I've beginning to hear few rumors as well, about Carrie's organization "The Clan of the Wise." Apparently they don't consider small-time piracy much of a proof of her power. They have devised some serious objectives that need to be met. First she disappointed them with the technical delays, and now with the random cruising around the oceans.

Misty and I sat at our controls, monitoring the ship's progress and the state of the SMD. We had gradually tuned the system to push over 220 knots. A huge black cloud of steam followed us everywhere, clearly marking our position to even the most primitive of satellites. Julia sat in a corner of the control room, playing a handheld game or reading an electronic book. She'd steal a peek at Rod every once in a while.

As I watched, a number of indicators shot into the red. "Shut it down, shut it down," I shouted, typing away and clicking on the shutdown procedure. We had never made an emergency stop before. "Deploy air brakes!"

The entire room went black, and people began screaming. I could feel the entire ship lurching towards the bow, groaning with the sudden loss of power. We had no cameras, no telemetry, and no contact with the Singularity Matrix. A great feeling of dread came over me. If we had lost containment, the entire ship could blow sky-high. This was definitely not part of a normal shutdown. Either some major power conduit had failed, or someone had deliberated sabotaged the ship.

"Alex! Alex," called Misty. Someone flicked a lighter so I could see just a bit. I grabbed Misty, then we found Julia and Rod. The ship shuddered and lurched, throwing us off our feet, and sending equipment flying. The entire Palace filled with screams and shouting. Julia began crying, calling for her momma.

In the din of the panic I shouted in Misty's ear. "I've got to make sure we keep containment or we're all dead! I'm heading back to the engine room."

"Alex, you'll burn up! We were just at 110%, it will take hours to cool off. You can't do it."

"I have to, I don't have a choice. We have some fire suits. All I need to do is get to the Matrix control box."

"Damn it Alex, send someone else. We can't lose you. Not now!" She clutched me and her eyes pleaded with me.

"Get back to the cabin if you can. I'll meet you there. Please, Misty, I don't have a choice. The fate of the Earth could be at stake."

"Oh God, Oh God. I know, I know. Just be careful. Take this laptop, if it doesn't melt you might need it." She hugged me fiercely. "And Alex, if anything should happen, I want you to know...I love you so much."

I was speechless for a second. "Misty...I...I love you too. Everything will be fine. Take care of Julia, I think I'm really starting to like that kid."

"Okay, just be careful." We kissed for a moment, then I grabbed the laptop, put it in a nearby backpack, and left them, not knowing if I'd ever see them again.

Making my way through the panicked throng proved difficult. I had no idea where Carrie was, and no one seemed to be in charge. Only a couple tiny lights here and there lit the place. Fortunately no one seemed to disturb me. The ship continued to buck and shimmy, listing a bit to the left, probably due to a stuck rudder or control surface. I felt the bow plunge back into the ocean, losing its hydrofoil speed, and once again we all were thrown onto the floor. I picked myself up and staggered past the piles of gaming machines and lounge chairs strewn about. The people who recognized me in the darkness begged for information but I just pushed past. The clock could be ticking on the demise of the entire human race.

I pushed thru the thick bulkhead door. A wave of heat hit me as soon as it opened. I closed it behind me, feeling my way through the passage way leading down to the Matrix. I found a small room that contained the fire equipment. I grabbed a helmet with a built-in LED light. I used that light to turn on a few more that I removed and clipped to my arms. I quickly slipped on the suit and made my way out towards the Matrix.

Every step seemed to bring more and more heat. Sweat began to form on my brow and slide down my face. I came to another bulkhead door, but even touching this door proved too painful. I ran back to the fire room and retried an axe. I used the axe to turn the wheel of the door.

A puff of boiling hot steam assailed me as the door swung open. I could barely breath. I couldn't even guess at the temperature...maybe 150 at least. It felt like an oven. I stepped in, feeling the heat penetrating the asbestos soles of the boots I had donned. I searched for the Matrix control room. Searing heat seeped through the seams of the suit, cooking me alive. I finally found the room, only a scant few meters from the core of the Matrix. I could hear the rumblings of the steam still firing through the system, cooling it down bit by bit. I found a connection to plug the laptop in. The keys felt a bit melty, but the damn thing actually worked. In a few moments I downloaded the telemetry.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The containment field held, although for how long I couldn't say. A backup system still supplied the critical power that held the tiny singularity away from the walls of the Matrix. I threw the laptop back into the bag, and ran back towards safety. Just as I closed the door to the engine room, the walls seemed to lurch, and a moment later a metallic grinding sound filled the room. I began pulling off the heavy protective gear. Some of it literally smoked. I could feel parts of my skin start to blister, but that grinding sound couldn't have been good.

I had to find a way to restore the electrical power. Without it we were blind and defenseless. Until the inner control room cooled down, we couldn't use the Matrix to zap enemies. We were essentially sitting ducks.

As I made my way back towards the Palace, I ran into Rod in the hallway.

"Where's Misty and Julia? What the hell's going on," I demanded.

"It's a bloody riot in there," Rod spat. "I got them to safety, then came to help. Christ, you look like shit."

"Ok,'re sure they're safe?"

"No one's completely safe, but they've barricaded the door best they could."

I heard a boomy sound reverberate through the halls. "What the fuck is that?"

"That's the other thing, I think we're under bloody attack! We think some ship has come alongside. This is a goddamn cluster-fuck, that's what it is."

"It's a fucking setup, that's what it is." For damn sure. This was no coincidence. Was this Ellie's doing? Carrie's? The ship fails right smack in the middle of the most Pirate-infested waters in the world. "We've got to get this damn ship functional. Where the hell is the damage? I think if we just get the power back, we'll be fine."

We found a cooler room to sit in. Flipping open the half-melted laptop, I pored through boat schematics. "Here, there's a small transformer room, between the Palace and the top deck. This is where I'd cut the power. Everything is routed through here. Unless the APU's have been damaged, we should be fine,"

"That's where we'll go," responded Rod, as were heard more sharp reports and a bit of shouting.

We ran back to the bulkhead containing the Palace, then crawled along gangways and service ladders all around the thick wall. We noticed a small haze of smoke as we approached the transformer room, and smelled the acrid burn of ozone. Something definitely had blown here. We also received a wisp of gunpowder. Now we could hear the rat-a-tat of automatic weapons, and the occasional concussion of an RPG or some kind of grenade.

The transformer room seemed intact but full of smoke. A few lights lit up. "We still have power, it's just terminated here!"

"Ah, here's the bugger," said Rod. "Someone threw a bloody wrench into the transformer. We just need to grab it and reset. Go on, now, go grab that wrench."

I looked at him like a crazy person. "I could get electrocuted! You do it!"

"Ross, there's no power. Just grab it!"

Tentatively I crawled between the large transformer stacks. Once in reach of the wrench, I quickly reached out and snatched it. It still felt warm, and the ends had melted a bit. I threw the wrench on the ground. "Fucking hell!"

"Ok, Ross, now let's hit the power." He pulled all the levers in the room down, into their reset position. "On three, lift them back up. Ready? One...two...three!"

Click, click, click, click. On the last switch, the lights came back on, the air condition started blowing, and the network rebooted. I quickly opened the laptop and searched for information. It took an awful five minutes before all the ship's systems came back online. Matrix containment: nominal. Ship integrity holding. Intruder Alert: all decks. Code Red.

The Klaxon started sounding, a new tone I hadn't heard before, battle stations I guess. We whipped up a screen of the external cams. A small ship lay next to ours, but a swarm of men emerged from it. They definitely weren't Marines of any kind, they were dark-skinned men wearing no more than tatters but carrying rifles and knives. On the top deck of QC1, a bunch of bodies lay scattered across the surface, obviously our men from their gaily colored outfits. I switched to a view of the Palace. A few of them had fought their way in, but a fierce battle raged across the floor. One by one the intruders slipped through the door.

"We're getting beaten," I yelled. I looked at some other views. Some invaders were trying to force their way into the cabin section, where Misty huddled. "This shit has to stop. Rod, you got any idea how to get the Fire Control System up?"

"Lemme try." I handed him the laptop and he played around for a minute. "Here we go. What do you want?"

"Fire at their ship. Let 'em know we're not rolling over."

Up on the deck, a hatch opened, and a set of missiles poked out of the deck. They turned and faced the attacking ship.

"Fire!" I commanded.

"Exocets away!"

Two missiles fired up and shot off their launch, impacting the hostile ship almost immediately, exploding in a huge plume of fire and smoke. Our ship shook with the impact, and the men on the deck were thrown off their feet. Another impact tore through the other ship, and it began listing away from us.

"Direct hit!" cried Rod. "Blimey fuckers!"

"What else we got," I asked. "They're jumping off their ship onto ours."

Rod flipped through the controls. "Ahh, here we go." Another part of the deck opened up, and a machine gun on a turret popped up.

"Oh yeah," I breathed. "Rake the fuckers."

The gun burst to life, spraying the deck indiscriminately with bursts of leaden fire. In moments, not a thing moved.

I pointed to one of the monitors. "Shit, they've broken through to the Cabins. I gotta go. You keep taking them out when you see them."

"Good luck, Ross. Give them my best."

I patted Rod on the shoulder. After studying the schematics for a minute, I found a route around the outside perimeter of the Palace over to the Cabins. I retrieved my shotgun and sword from where I stashed them, and began the long crawl towards the bow of the boat. I heard continual gunfire, shouts, and screams of pain. The pain from my burns continued to increase in intensity, until I could barely control screaming from the pain. Tears flowed down my face, but I gritted my teeth and kept going.

Little by little I made my way past the Palace. I finally emerged into the cabin section, on the opposite side of the Cabin as Misty. I ran down the hall, turned a corner, and faced Carrie and Xyllan. The huge man raised his weapon at me. "Get down!"

I dropped as Xyllan fired. Behind me, two enemy Pirates dropped to the ground. Xyllan grabbed me by the shoulder and yanked me to my feet. I screamed in pain from the burns.

"Hold it," ordered Carrie, pushing Xyllan back. "Alex, you got us back up?"

"Yeah," I said, doubling over in pain. "And I'm hurt bad."

"Who's running things now?"

"Rod's back up in the transformer room. It had been sabotaged. Listen, I got to get to Misty. Can you help me? Please."

I stood crouched over, panting in pain, hating to ask Carrie for anything.

"Okay, sure," agreed Carrie to my surprise. "Come on, let's go. We may need her, you look you're about to die. Someone needs to operate this thing."

We turned a few corners, slid down a staircase, and arrived at our door.

"Misty, it's me," I called. In a moment I heard the barricade come down and the door lock unlatch.

"Alex! You made it!" She almost hugged me but Carrie held her off.

"He's burned," she explained. "He's going to need help. But we need to get back to the control room and zap these guys. Let's go!"

We scooted down the hall and Xyllan stopped at a room. He ducked inside and brought out three shotguns. He handed one to Carrie, one to Misty, and one to Julia, whom I doubt has ever held a gun. "Just point and shoot," he told her. She shied away from him as much as possible, but aimed the gun at his back once he started walking. I waved her off, although it might be completely justified.

As we approached the Palace, the scene didn't look good. Almost two dozen enemy pirates had infiltrated the Palace, and scores of dead people lay everywhere. We snuck in, out of the line of fire, and crawled into the control room, still a jumble of electronics. Bullet holes puckered the walls, and the glass walls had been all but disintegrated, covering the floors with masses of sharp rubble. Misty found some functional equipment, and brought up the Matrix protocols.

"Whenever you're ready," she said.

Carrie looked around. "Still too many of them."

"Even with the bulkhead doors open, it won't affect us that much," I mumbled, feeling faint. "We won't zombify."

"Do it," Carrie commanded.

Misty pressed the button. The Klaxon sounded, the dreaded countdown. The enemy pirates starting firing with reckless abandon. The clock counted down to zero--

"Ow! Ow!" Misty shook my shoulder. The floor spun beneath me and I couldn't focus my eyes. Even a mild zap is extremely confusing. "How long has it been?"

"Look," she said, pointing across the Palace.

The enemy had turned to face the bulkhead door. Another enemy pirate jumped through the door and launched himself on the nearest pirate, ripping at his throat and beating him senseless. The other pirates froze, then fired at the zombie, who wouldn't stop until his heart and head burst. Another and another zombie jumped in, attacking anyone within reach. They tried to fight them off, but the frenzied attack caught them off guard. They threw down their weapons and ran. Our men jumped out from their cover and blasted them, cutting them to ribbons. Once the enemy perished, we concentrated on the zombies pouring in, cutting them up one by one. After a while it was all over.

Blackness enveloped my vision, and I collapsed.

Now I'm resting in a corner of the Palace converted to a hospital ward. I'm typing up what I can remember from the attack. They just gave another sedative...I post again when I can.

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008 @ 11:22 PM

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