The pounding of the Hammersong vibrated throughout the ship's hull. The door to the Titan Bay was sealed tight and the power leads disconnected, but that wasn't likely to last. The entire crew barely had time to get into their space armor, and now the exposed support beams of the upper deck gangway provided makeshift barriers.
"They're jamming comms," Mariel shouted from the bridge, before closing the helmet on her pink armor and using its external speakers. "All digital systems are down!" Gabriel and Fred dashed down the access ramp to secure the lower deck, while Eli and Remiel were holed up in the Artifact Bay. A quick check confirms Mariel's warning: the heads-up displays on the helmets are down, but regular systems seem to be working.
Tasha drops her own helmet on, securing it to her alien armor and bringing up her personal HUD. As promised, the comm. channels produce nothing but static. "That leaves us with securing the upper deck," Tasha declares. "We cannot allow them to access the bridge, or reach the artifact bay." She checks her weapon, and additional ammo supplies, then flexes her hand. "What's the status of access points; have they beached the hull yet?"
"From the hammersong, I'd say they've gotten into the cargo or Titan bay by now," Nora remarks from close by, in her own red and gold armor.
Layth's helmet locks down with a hiss. "We are outnumbered and our weaponry is questionable. Therefore, we must think creatively in dealing with them," the buck says, "How are they armored, do we know? Their weapons are solid metal, correct?"
"There aren't any standards with Titanians," Nora answers. "They probably have space armor, because even they aren't so tough to survive prolonged exposure to vacuum. Weapons will be… anything! Guns, flamers, rockets, beam-weapons, hammers… maybe even heavy rocks."
"Fred and Gabriel went down there. We'll have to leave it to them. Layth has it right: we need alternative solutions than direct force. The Melchior cannot be accessed or activated by any pilot but myself, so it's safe for now." She glances at Layth, then to Nora. "The PersoComs cannot be killed, but maybe you can be disrupted? Can PersoComs use weapons?"
"Not reliably, we can't," Nora says, sounding a bit upset about it. "We're still bound by the Terran AI restrictions. But we can be distractions… " As soon as she says that, the hammering code stops.
"Suggestion: we connect the heavy voltage lines to all the doors and bulkheads. Any of them that are not wearing insulated armor would get a rather unpleasant, if not fatal, experience. Remember Fred's lessons on electricity,," Layth offers to Tasha. "Also, we can loosen deck plates and build drop traps. Use rails as makeshift spikes. Basically, fortify what we have with what we have." The buck pauses and then taps his helmet in thought before asking, "What do we know about their senses? Is there anything about how they see or hear we can attack?"
"Loud noises and bright light affect them as well as they do us," Nora points out. "They've stopped their chatter, so must have decided on a plan. We have to act fast, while they're cobbling it together." She points out the exposed power couplings near the Med and Mech Bays. For once, Bellerophon's unfinished interior is an advantage.
"Good idea, Layth. We can also consider flooding areas with gasses if they've removed their helmets after entering; carbon monoxide from the filtration system, perhaps?" When the vibrations stop, Tasha cocks her head up, as if listening intently, then turns and moves close to the hatch. "I'll admit, I'm not so good an traps and the like. Maybe it's the Vartan in me, but an indirect fight is leaving me at a bit of a loss. I'll volunteer to engage them first, if it comes to that."
"Can we magnetize the hull in places?" Layth asks too, "And just, well, stick them to the walls? And good suggestion on the air systems. Let's worth with that too. I'll get the access doors in here connected to the power lines. You see to the air system?" The buck then hurries to the power couplings to see what he can shut down, disconnect, then reconnect to the bulkheads.
"We'd have to put an electromagnet in contact with the bulkheads… " Nora notes. "There might be one in the Mech Bay, but I doubt we'll have one strong enough to magnetize a large area. Might work for magnetic mines though."
"Maybe not, but we can adjust stator output. If we engage maneuvering thrusters, then cut artificial gravity, we should be able to throw them in to the ceiling," Tasha suggests as she eyes the door warily, then turns and heads back to her console, sliding in to place. With a scattered touch of the display, she brings up the filtration systems and begins shutting off filtration and recycling in areas not occupied by Bellerophon crew. "This will take a moment."
There are mechanical sounds coming from the other side of the blast doors that seal off the Titan Bay from the rest of the ship. Connecting the power leads, at least, is straightforward they've already been pulled from the door motors, and the metal contacts jam nicely into the perforations in the metal floor plates.
As Tasha works, she can see that the Titan Bay is still pressurized at least. The cargo bay behind it is a blank as far as the sensors go, so it's possible that that was the breaching area.
Mariel also comes back to join them, asking, "What can I do?"
Layth shuts down one of the power feeds to the couplings and then begins dragging cables between the panel and the bulk heads, shoving the exposed connectors into the mesh. A dash back to the panel and he turns the power back on. There's a crackle and the scent of ozone. "Do we still have access to the med bay? Can any of our supplies be used to mix up something to knock them out? Tasha is working on the air system, and that seems an effective wide-range attack."
"Med Bay and the Mech Bay still have power," Nora notes, poking her head inside. Both rooms are right next to the pressure doors, however. If there's a firefight or explosions, they could be damaged unless locked down.
"How about over-pressurizing the Titan bay, can you do that Mariel? Would that be enough to eject some of them in to space, but not lose critical equipment?" The black and gold armored woman watches as the meters rise and fall, carbon monoxide building in the tanks and filtering in from other sources. "If they're entering from the rear, we could also consider a Jon's Maneuver from the Melchior, but that would result in bay damage and require me to access it."
"How many holo projectors do we have? Like the one we use for Fallen-Star?" Layth asks. "Ah, good suggestion, Tasha, on over pressurizing."
Mariel comes up to Tasha's side, and looks at the controls she's accessed. "Well, we can't generate that much pressure, but if we put the system into leak-check mode we can get four atmospheres in there. It won't keep them from opening the door though, and once they do there'll be a wind and maybe condensation as the areas equalize."
"I'm just worried about the loose items," Tasha tells Layth, looking back. She eyes her console, then taps one more point of input. "Gasses building, we should have enough carbon monoxide to flood a corridor. I have it on a continuous build up, but recharge may take some time and circulation has stopped in non-critical areas." When Mariel comes up, she gestures at the console. "Given only four of us can use weapons, you'll have to handle execution of this system. Layth," she glances back again, "Do you need anything from the Mech Bay while it's still secure? I can go now."
"We need to decide on defensive positions too," Nora notes. "We could set up a cross-fire at the doors to the Mech and Medical Bays. That's close enough that it may discourage them from using concussive grenades. The carbon-dioxide flood should keep down fires as well." She seems to think a moment, then tells Layth, "Anything big and heavy that can be used as a melee weapon."
"I still think flooding the vents with some sort of sleeping gas may work and the med bay is the place to make that," Layth suggests as he heads over to the console Tasha is at. "And as for holo systems … can we use the persocom projection system to make them think there is more of us than there is? Or … project over them so they attack each other?"
"And yes, Nora is right, we need a narrow corridor position. It's like defending a pass, only so many can get through at once, it prevents us from being overwhelmed. We need to pick the most secure place have have for that, like the spots Nora suggests. I'll scour this area quick for melee weapons quick. We should have some rebar somewhere."
"We don't actually know how the projection setup even works," Nora points out. "It's not using anything in the ship's network to do it, otherwise we wouldn't have the distance limits. And MOTHER can't just simulate extra people we already tested that idea on Orpheus. We've only got the one Silent-Ones emitter, too."
"The main problem with a gas-based attack is if they keep their environmental gear on. If they use concussive grenades, we can also consider reducing the area to a vacuum, to eliminate transfer medium," Tasha says. She shows Layth the transfer system controls, now displaying all areas of the ship still able to be accessed by the system. "If I can reach the weapons locker, I can get the Gauss rifle. It has a flamethrower. Since we're also accumulating a lot of pure oxygen, we can consider detonating corridors as well, as a last resort."
There's a grating sound that cuts right to the middle of the skull, followed by ratcheting. The Titan Bay doors open a crack, possibly an inch wide, and immediately begin to fog up as the pressure from the other side causes a carbon-dioxide wind to blow through.
Layth smacks the side of his helmet in the middle of his quest to find heavy objects for bludgeons. "Tasha, we're idiots. Remember how the artifact reacted to … water? Back in the bathroom? We need to turn a hose onto it … and be well back," he says.
"The Melchior will distract them," Tasha adds, in afterthought. "They may try and open the exterior Titan bay doors and focus on stealing it, if they can't take the ship." She blinks, looking back, "That may disrupt the projection system; we could lose PersoCom support. And we only used one artifact, not all of them?"
"Does the artifact room have a sprinkler system? It's a last resort," Layth says.
"They're starting to come through!" Mariel barks. The doors lurch open another inch.
"Sprinklers?" Nora asks. "We have a carbon-dioxide based fire suppression system in place, but not water!"
"No more time to plan, we need to move into position. Tasha, get your rifle. I'll manage the vent system you've set up," Layth says as he gives up on his quest for bludgeons to return to the control panel.
With that announcement from Mariel, Tasha pushes herself to her feet. "I've done what I can here; Layth, I'll be back ASAP. I'll move to take cover in the Mech bay if it seems like they'll breach the inner door." She proceeds towards the door, stopping only to wave over her shoulder. "See you in a bit," she says, and then she's off dashing down the corridor in to the ship.
"If any of us goes down, no mourning. There is time for that later," Layth says as he slides into the control chair and starts tapping on the panel.
The door keeps cranking open another inch ever few seconds, and then stops when it's only open about a foot. The wind has stopped, and there's some dry-ice effect misting along the floor. There's silence and darkness from the Titan Bay, and then something scoots out across the electrified floor, drawing a torrent of sparks and electrical arcs until it explodes, splattering the walls with… some sort of fruit gel. A twine cord is attached to the metal pie plate, now containing only a few burnt bits of crust, and it's used to draw the dish back towards the gap in the pressure doors.
Within the ship, Tasha races to her weapon locker and begins entering in her security code, glad defensive systems like this aren't powered by general power. When the door swings open, she takes up her giant weapon and begins checking its power and fuel pressure.
"Why are they using pies against us?" Mariel whispers. These Titanians seem to be extra cautious but maybe that's from seeing the Khattan-made Titan. The next thing to come through the gap is a bit of mirror connected at an angle to a long stick.
"There is something terribly dishonorable to die to pie wielding foes," Layth remarks as he tries to set up a CO2 timer to flood the hallways outside the mech bay (and med bay if there is enough). "Any lasers in that bay? Someone shoot that mirror!" he shouts, looking for any sort of bay laser welder or similar.
The sound of Tasha's hoofsteps echo through the corridor as she retakes position, heading towards the Titan door. As she swings by, she stops to yell, "Open the corridor hatch, I'm going to snipe at them from between the cracks while they get across the Titan bay. It's a straight line, so some of the fire should penetrate in to space. Close it when they near, and keep it ready to be charged!" And then she's off again.
"Okay, opening," Layth shouts and puts a pause on the CO2 flood. He also pauses in his search for a targettable laser long enough to open the door a crack for Tasha.
"You aren't worried about hitting Melchior?" Nora has to ask. The door to the Titan bay is only opened about a foot, and the mirror… well, that gets yanked back as soon as whoever is on the other side spots Tasha dashing from cover to cover as she zig-zags down the corridor.
Seeing the door cracking open in the distance, Tasha dashes towards it, powering her heavy weapon up as she goes. When she nears the door, she dives to minimize her outline. The Gauss rifle is braced against her shoulder, the laser dot popping in to existence against the far airlock door. If I can get this right, maybe I can kill the lot of them before they exit, using over-penetration and spray fire, she thinks to herself. She's never killed anyone before, but the threat to her family and her Titan is enough to awaken the Vartan fighting instinct in her. Her hands do not shake; she feels tense but ready.
[[[ NOTE TO SELF: Aaron says, "There's the main upper deck corridor - the bridge to the Titan bay pressure doors. That's where you are. The Titan bay is beyond the doors. The 'outer' doors of the airlock the launch doors for the titan the Entire bay is pressurized or depressurized as needed, so the pressure doors just are pressure and blast proof. It's just like the Fenris map. You're all in the 'neck' of the ship, pretty much. The 'body' of it has the Titan bay on top, cargo behind it, lower deck is the vehicle bay and the engineering section. Layth was in the Mech Bay last, wasn't he? After Nora suggested the crossfire and you agreed, I assumed you moved up to there. You were searching around in it.]]]
Layth hits the door to the med bay with his fist as he mans the air system control console. "Doctor, can you make some tranquilizer darts?" he asks, "And do we have something to fire them?"
After securing her weapon, Tasha begins its startup procedure as she races to take up position in the Mech Bay's doorway. "The Melchior will be fine; if we die and/or it's stolen, a few holes won't make any difference," she says, already starting to growl from all the impending violence. The barrel of the weapon is lowered, a single red dot beginning to slide back and forth, searching for targets.
"We have… uh… " Caravelli goes, digging through things. He pulls up a pistol-shaped object. "We have this injector, but it's contact only! It should be smart enough to give the correct dose automatically. Was that a pie that exploded outside the door?"
"You have nothing longer distance?" Layth asks with a hint of exasperation in his voice. "And yes, it was a pie."
"I'm a doctor, not a sniper," Caravelli complains. "The Bio Lab… If we have a tranq. gun, it'd be down there I imagine, but I don't know! With the computer down, I can't check the inventory."
Nora crowds next to Tasha in the doorway, watching the gap in the pressure door. Mariel is already in the Med Bay, near the life support controls.
"Then you man this console and I'll try to get down there and look," Layth orders as he gets up. "If they get through, flood the corridor and seal yourself in the lab. I'll be right back." And then the buck is off to quick-check the lab.
"Nora, you're military. How much damage will a stray shot from the Gauss rifle do to the ship's interior? What I'm asking is: is it worth the risk?" Tasha keeps the weapon in single-shot mode, the dot coming to rest on the central crack of the hatch as she waits.
"I don't know that it would penetrate the doors or hull," Nora says. As Layth dashes from the Med Bay and runs forward toward the ramp to the lower deck, there's a 'punft' noise and something launches through the gap in the bay doors! The grenade falls short, and bursts into a sticky web of goop well behind the high-speed Lapi.
The lower deck looks abandoned, although the Artifact Bay and Avionics are buttoned up tight. Zerachiel and Gabriel mirror the group above, having taken positions at the Zoology and Geology Labs while Fred works to disable the pressure door into the Vehicle Bay. The Zoo lab, used for storing animal specimens, seems the most likely place to find a tranquilizer gun.
"Excuse me, looking for a tranquilizer gun," Layth says as he zips through on the way to the Zoo lab! "They're coming through above!"
Up top, the doors are rapidly being cranked open now…
"Nora, anything I can toss through, then shoot so it explodes?" Tasha inquires, never taking her eye off the door as it inches open.
"The stunner," Gabriel says, and points to a tall cabinet. Inside, Layth finds a rifle of sorts, with a wide bell-shaped muzzle.
Nora rummages around the mechanics shop. "Paint… lubricant… ah!" She returns with a small chemical welder and removes the fuel canister. "This might work!" she offers.
"Perfect!" Tasha takes the canister, then chucks it towards the open space as she lowers her weapon's dot to shoot it after it bounces through!
There's a blast of noise and pressure, but not as big of an explosion as would be hoped due to the modified, CO2-heavy air mix and pressure.
Layth grabs the odd rifle and darts back towards the stairwell up. Even without a true explosion, Layth's ears register the detonation. "And it begins," he remarks as he bounds up the stairwell. "Time to die."
There's commotion beyond the door, and some barking-growling sounds. Then the opening starts to crank closed again, stopping at a mere 6-inches wide.
"Keep looking for materials, Nora. Are you sure you can't use a weapon?" Tasha keeps her heavy weapon, the Terran Gauss rifle (with flamethrower haphazardly attached) trained on the open hatch, her ears back and face all concentration.
The weird bell-shaped muzzle of Layth's stun rifle humms and distorts the air ahead of it as the Lapi fires it into the opening while dodging from cover to cover until he's reached the Med Bay door, opposite Tasha once more. There's nothing but silence from the other side of the opening.
"I can't fire a weapon, but that doesn't mean I can't be useful," Nora notes.
"Anyone feel like going to check the door?" Layth asks as he keeps the odd weapon aimed at the door.
"I can go," Mariel notes. "Just… ah… hold my armor for me?" she asks Layth.
Perking her ears at Layth's request, Tasha gestures forward. "Can you check the door Nora? It may spook them, too, to see our ship is full of ghosts. That's how I got the Titanians not to land near Orpheus in the first place," Tasha suggests.
"Why not leave the armor on?" Layth asks
"Or … you won't be solid by that point, will you?" Layth asks.
"If they shoot, I don't want to get it damaged," Mariel answers. Nora turns to Tasha and says, "I'll go too. The idea is reconnaissance, which incorporeal ghosts like Mariel and I can do easily. Hold my armor, please."
The black armored woman stands, reaching back with a hand to steady Nora's armor and holding up her Gauss rifle with one hand, thanks to the strength reinforcement. "Speaking of armors, can you and Mariel take remote command of the loaders and other machines in the bays, and get at them from behind," she asks.
"No, we won't be able to interact with anything," Nora notes. There a tug against Tasha's grip, and then Nora oozes forward through her armor. "We need the computer to control things remotely, and it's not working."
Layth grips Mariel's armor. "Well, at least that means they cannot hurt you, either," he says. "Pity we cannot get the computer back on line."
"Understood." Tasha keeps the laser dot of her weapon firmly hovering near the crack in the hatch. "Layth, have any ideas?"
Mariel is less practiced at 'ghosting' and has trouble getting one of her feet free, which just adds to her embarrassment. Finally, the two Karnor women go to stand in the middle of the corridor. Mariel is hunkered down a bit, with one arm across her chest and her tail curled up between her legs for modesty, while Nora stands defiantly with fists on hips as if daring any Titanians to do something about it.
"Nothing more than we have already prepared for," Layth admits. "I doubt I could get the computer working again. Fred could, perhaps. If I went and relieved him below."
After a few seconds of non-reaction, the women go to the door and stick their heads through. "It's dark," Nora reports, before she turns sideways and tries to squeeze through the opening. It… is a strange sight, to be sure.
"Having the computer active may allow them to hack the system, too, unfortunately. Oi, Titanians are masters of figuring out technologies they by all rights shouldn't be able to. I was thinking of using the built up oxygen to create a explosion near vents, since we're not circulating much right now. But there could be damage," Tasha tells Layth. Her ears perk at Nora's response, then she murmurs, "I'm worried about Gabri- … the Captain."
"The door below was not open yet. Do you want me to go check on them?" Layth asks.
Nora makes it through, and Mariel… waits on this side until called. "They're all knocked out, I think," Nora calls. "Only four of them… looks like the explosion got two near the door, and the stunner got the ones setting up some sort of cannon."
"Ah … " Tasha pauses to listen to the report, then nods. "You should. If they've broken through, we'll be flanked and it's over. We seem to have this under control for the moment, Layth. If I can, I'll consider getting to the Melchior and "I'll head below." With that, the buck heads back down the hallway to the stairwell.
"Good luck Layth come back alive," Tasha bids her friend, giving him a nervous smile just before he leaves.
Down on the lower deck, the bay door is still closed, with Gabriel covering it with his weapon. Zerachiel has his hands full holding Fred's unoccupied armor.
Up above, Tasha hefts Nora's armor and uses it as a shield as she advances towards the hatch. "Nora, I'm going to shine my flashlight inside. Tell me what you see, and if I can reach the Melchior." As she nears, she eyes the hatch and the unconscious glimpse of unconscious Titanians, trying to get a look at how they're dressed and if they have their helmets on.
"Where has Fred gone? Through the door?" Layth asks. "Have they tried to come through? We have immobilized those above."
It's a good two minutes before Nora's head appears through the too-narrow opening in the pressure doors. "There's just the ones up here, I think. Found a Barnacle a pod that sticks to the hull on the emergency ventral hatch."
"Fred's gone through to check things out, yeah," Akkers notes. "Won't know the situation until he comes back, without opening the doors and looking ourselves. Seems quiet though."
"We can hope, but no letting guard down. I lost a friend once by being too relaxed," Layth mutters as he eyes the door.
A black spot appears on the Vehicle Bay door, resolving into a canine nose. More of Fred's face eventually appears, and his first words are, "Damn, if I had a flatter face I could totally pull off a Cheshire Cat impersonation. Anyway, looks all clear down here. No intrusions."
"Then I'm going to try and get inside and defend this section; keep an eye out, aye?" Tasha eases Nora's suit against the bulkhead, then moves towards the hatch. "I'll need to get this open enough to fit through do we have power to this hatch? Think I can force it?" Her weapon is kept trained on the Titanians, red dot glaring balefully down.
"The power for the doors is currently connected to the floor," Mariel notes, pointing the redirected power cables. "They need to be connected back first."
"If you were solid, I imagine Gabriel would want to kiss you, Fred," Layth remarks rather dryly. "No signs at all, then? They must have used the upper passageways only, then. Are there any shafts large enough they could climb through?
"Right, Layth's idea." Tasha puts her weapon aside, then heads towards the cables, eyeing them a moment to spot the proper grip points, then moving to attach them. "Can you remove these after I get inside?"
"Maintenance and inspection shafts are pretty tight you know that first-hand," Fred tells Layth. "No, a Titanian would need a regular hatch either on the upper hull or through the cargo doors."
"Could they walk along the hull and enter the ship from the fore?" Layth asks next.
"Well, if you bind the invaders before they recover, we won't need to," Nora points out.
"They could," Gabriel notes. "The only forward airlock is the small one at the head, next to the bridge."
"I'm more worried about new ones running past me while in the Melchior. If they need time to open the door again, that's time I can grab or step on them," Tasha explains. "And how do I bind a Titanian, anyway?" She gives the unconscious forms a dubious look, then offers, "Maybe throw them in one of the unoccupied crew compartments and remove power to the door?"
"That could do it," Mariel agrees. "Or we can use the suspension tubes."
"Then I'm going to check the forward airlock," Layth says and briefly salutes with the stun rifle. "Yell if something happens here." The buck turns and heads back up.
"No time to entube them, so the crew area it is. I don't want them waking up and destroying the Med Bay when we may well need it most," says the Vartan. Once the hatch is opened enough, Tasha grabs one of the Titanian's by the foot and hauls them towards the nearest crew compartment, her gun pointed down at his head.
Tasha spots Layth entering the corridor ahead, then sees his backside as he runs forward towards the bridge.
"I wonder what he's up to," Tasha murmurs aloud. Her head swivels between her prisoner and the other three. "I don't like this one bit. Oi, I may be getting soft. You better appreciate this, pirate." And with that, she throws the body in to an empty room and closes the hatch, off to get another one.
The bridge section is detachable in an emergency, and the connection between it and the main corridor consists of a pressure door, followed by the 'outer' bridge airlock door. Just inside the bridge airlock, to the left, is another door that opens to the outer airlock, which is long and narrow as it extends out to the hull and the final outer door.
"I'm going to check the hull near the bridge. I will hopefully be back," Layth shouts down the corridor. The buck then steps into the bridge area and heads towards the airlock. He sets the stunner just outside and will have to rely on the power assists of the suit and his sidearm.
One by one the Titanians get dumped in separate cabins, until Tasha is finished and back at the hatch. She stands sentinel, muzzle twisting as she thinks aloud. "The hangar isn't very big, but there may be articulation room … And there may still be more inside, or on their way." She tilts her head. "Nora, describe the Barnacle?"
"It's a small boarding craft, couldn't hold more than these guys and their supplies," the naked ghost-woman notes, as she pokes at whatever the Titanians were trying to assemble. "I think this may be a field disruptor… "
"Hmm, can a Barnacle return to its mothership automatically?" Tasha leans out enough to eye the field disruptor, asking, "And what might this do, is it to disrupt the shock trap?"
It's pretty straightforward to cycle the airlock and it clearly doesn't rely on the computer. As an emergency escape, it's got its own power backup and explosive bolts. There's even a panel holding inflatable emergency rafts. The outer door opens up behind one of the decorative 'wing' assemblies on the side of the ship's head. This blocks the view forward, but back along the ship is clear.
Layth activates his magnetic boots, then grips the airlock exit and swings himself out onto the hull, aiming to lock his feet down on its surface.
"These are Titanians," Nora points out. "They don't even use computers that we're aware of. There won't be any automation, and the mothership could be well away by now. It's not unusual to just launch a Barnacle at a ship and move on."
At least the glossy white hull is easy to see. The orientation is odd though, since from Layth's standpoint the ship is on its side, with one of the wings towering up overhead in the distance, and the intakes for the atmospheric engines gaping at him like caves.
"Time to 'walk around the world'," Layth tells himself, "At least our world for the time being." And so, step by clomping step the buck goes to circle the ship and look for signs of other Titanians on the exterior.
"Oh." Tasha sounds a little stunned at the answer, but shrugs. "I should have guessed. I was going to try and get it to return to its mothership with a little 'gift-O-Tasha,' but that's that. Well," she glances towards the open hatch, "We'd best head in then, and see if there's more. Maybe we can re-seal the airlocks and set up a better defense." "But it'll have the DC and EM jammers in it, and you need to turn those off," Nora points out.
Tasha pauses at Nora's additional info, and nods again. "Aye, more the reason to head in then. Let's go. Mariel can you, reseal the hatch after I enter and then pull the connections after I enter?"
There aren't any signs of movement on the hull that Layth can see which is only about a quarter of it, granted.
Sighing in his helmet at the huge hull, Layth decides to walk a bit further on, just to be sure, before he'll head back to the bridge entrance.
"I can work the controls, but I don't think I'm strong enough to pull the cables," the younger Karnor notes.
"Well, we can't just leave it open. I'll take cover inside with your support, then you and Nora try to get the cables off together while I wait behind cover," Tasha orders. She gestures the two women ahead, then moves to follow them inside, weapon ready and body hunched to reduce her outline.
"There's nobody else here," Nora assures, but still checks ahead, poking into gaps between the cargo while Mariel checks under the Titan Cradle. Meanwhile, not far off… but outside the hull, Layth reaches the main hull at the base of Bellerophon's neck.
"Safety first," Tasha chimes in, mimicking Fred's lesson and trying to mimic his voice.
Layth peers around the main hull, looking for out of plate spots or protrusions. "So far, so good," he mutters.
At the back of the Titan bay are the two large doors to the cargo zone, set close to the outer walls. One of them is open, and it's through there that Nora leads.
"Onward. More … walking in nothingness," Layth mutters as he heads down the neck and then around to check the underside.
Tasha follows along once the coast is clear, weapon ready and eyes scanning. She isn't sure how much more keen her eyes are than those of a computer generated simulation slash ghost, but she isn't going to take any risks in being reckless to find out. "Any chance the Barnacle is trapped, or else a bomb?" A second later Tasha corrects, adding, "More of a bomb than usual?"
"I… don't know about Titanian's booby-trapping things intentionally," Nora admits. The cargo bay is crowded, of course, but there's light coming from a point just inside, in the middle of the bulkhead separating it from the Titan bay. With just a few feet between it and the head of the Silent-Ones Titan, there's an embedded ladder going up into an open circular portal. It looks just like the upper-hull access airlock on Orpheus.
"Hmm, is that were the Barnacle landed, or is that new?" Tasha turns and squints, not having any better low-light vision than a Terran, for all she can see at range. She continues forward, following Nora.
While circling the neck to view the lower hull, Layth notices that most of the view is cut off by the huge landing skids, along with the ventral rocket nacelles. But once he's closer to the centerline of the ship, he can see 'between her legs' as it were and there's a conspicuous metal wart stuck there. One with surprised looking space-wolves looking through its windows at Layth.
"I doubt you can hear this, but company on the hull," Layth says into the likely still dead comm. His brow sets and the buck marches towards the 'wart'. "Time to dislodge this this," he remarks, "Or … " He upholsters his sidearm, "Shoot out the window."
"That's where they came in, it leads to the upper hull," Nora points out, looking a bit transparent at this point. From directly underneath, Tasha can see right up into the Barnacle the transition from clean, smooth Terran technology to the ramshackle patchwork of the Titanian airlock is pretty obvious.
"I'm heading in. Keep an eye out, both forward and back just in case," Tasha directs. Then, she's heading up the ladder, using one arm and keeping her weapon pointed up.
It's a tight fit, with the rifle. Tasha climbs into an empty cockpit of sorts. Control systems and acceleration restraints seem stuck here and there at random, along with portholes and windows. The Barnacle is roughly egg-shaped, and doesn't have anything like an interface terminal just bright, glowing buttons in various colors.
On the opposite end of the ship, Layth spots the reason for the second Barnacle to still be full of wolves: it missed the hatch. The inflated docking skirt is off by over a foot, with the outline of the hatch visible sticking past the side.
It occurs to Tasha as she climbs just how incredibly frustrating and sad it must be, to be a PersoCom. Nothing to do but watch others act, nothing to do but serve, she thinks, staring down the barrel of her weapon, Not even a tomorrow to look forward to. She has little more time to consider this sad fact when she scoots in to the boarding vehicle. As her gaze sweeps across the available controls, she shakes her head in bemusement. "What a mess."
"I could shoot out that window and kill all of you," Layth remarks as he continues his approach, "Simple. But … no." Instead, he looks for how to dislodge the barnacle if possible.
From what Tasha can tell, the tiny ship is actually piloted by turning valves and pulling levers. There are a few cables running across the floor that connect inside the docking ring, and some of the button-lights are blinking, at least.
Curious wolves follow Layth through the windows as he inspects the docking collar. There are some clearly pneumatic hoses and power lines. So either the thing attaches via suction or magnets or both.
Layth checks to see if one of the cutters is attached to his suit or not. "You should all feel lucky I am not heartless and willing to let the vacuum kill you all. At least this way you have the hope of being rescued," he remarks, fully aware they can't hear him.
The utility kit is still attached to Layth's suit, including the tiny welding slash cutting tool. One of the wolves is trying to get the Lapi's attention through a window.
"What I need here, is my own bomb," Tasha mutters to herself. She could have just sealed the hatch and blow the thing off, but the only 'bomb' she has are her energy packs, and she isn't sure one of them won't annihilate the airlock completely. The others she needs to power her armor. "Let's see … " Following the lines connect to the hatch, Tasha wishes she brought one of the scanners. "These are either hatch controls or jamming feeding in to the ship. Well, time to try something." She scootches back in to the Bellerophon's airlock proper, making sure her boots are secure and she can grab something, then starts yanking cables from their connection to her ship.
Layth unhooks the cutter from his belt. Before he starts cutting the suction seal, though, he looks to the window questioningly.
There's a violent rush of air as a crack opens in the docking collar after Tasha yanks out something that causes a lot of sparks.
The wolf inside is pointing to the right and down, and making other useless gestures. That is, until another one blocks out the window with a dirty rag that has something crudely drawn on it. It looks like a square or box with a line coming out of each side.
"Tasha!" Nora calls up. "I can't close the inner door myself. There's a panel midway up the shaft that will let you do it!"
Layth looks to the right and down for for something that looks like a a box with tentacles. "I do not know how your kind functions as well as they do," he mutters.
This is where Tasha's time to make sure she had a grip and was inside her ship comes in to play. She jams her gun between her legs, then braces herself against the wall, wedging in and holding on with magnets, powered, and regular grip. Fully expecting the Barnacle to release and a vacuum to occur. Her free hand then continues to remove cables. "No, no, no … " More sparks. "Maybe, no … "
"I'm still working out these connectors keep testing the comm. until we get something," Tasha yells back down. "If I try and close the airlock now it'll jam on all this junk!"
Sure enough, Layth finds a lumpy-looking box with cables coming from it. It's not on the docking ring itself, but next to it and connecting to the bottom of the egg-shaped craft itself, which means there's only about a foot of clearance between the upper hull of Belle and the device.
A pause, then, "Oh you mean the inner airlock? Coming," Tasha yells back down. She abandons the connectors, then heads back down to secure the inner airlock first.
Nora grins and shakes her head up at Tasha just before the hatch closes, and with it most of the wind noise. Tasha's been running off suit-air anyway though, so doesn't really notice the change in pressure.
Layth shrugs … and tries using the cutter on one of the cables. "Oh well, if I die at least it won't be in a stupid way anyone can make a song about," he remarks.
Tasha gives her sister a 'what?' sort of look, grinning back. "I'm a Vartan, not a Lapi!" The hatch closes, Tasha retakes her secured position, and the defoliation of wires continues.
The cable connecting to the ring is the easiest to reach, and it melts and sparks. There's no sound, but the ring slides… apparently having lost it's firm grip.
Layth sticks the cutter back onto his belt and grabs onto the barnacle. "Servo assist, do your job," the Lapi grunts as he tries to 'pull the barnacle off the ship and shove it into space. At least that means force will be pressing him against the hull of the Belle.
With the ring disconnecting, Tasha watches to make sure it releases completely. While she waits, she tests if the jamming yet remains. "Tasha to anyone," she sends.
"-7 bottles of beer on the wall, 67 bottles of beer. Take one down and… oh, we're back!" Fred says over the comm channels, as the two invading eggs drift free of Bellerophon. Layth's spurts some gas and picks up speed, falling back away and receding gracefully. Tasha's unmanned, open-to-space one, however, drifts away and then gets ripped apart when it passes through the inertial field generated by the stators, having nobody aboard to turn on whatever Titanians have to compensate for the sudden change in mass and velocity.
"It's probably an honor to have been beaten by a rabbit," Layth mutters to himself as he watches the odd craft 'float' away. He shrugs slightly and starts the long and clomping walk back to the bridge airlock.
"Hangar/Cargo section airlock Barnacle dislodged, four Titanians taken prisoner in the aft crew cabins," Tasha reports. Then, in a more Tasha-like tone of relief, she says, "I'm glad you're all okay. Sealing airlock now." And with that, she reaches over and begins closing the external hatch.
"Second group have been disconnected from the ship and pushed back into microgravity. Heading back to bridge airlock," Layth remarks into his comm.
Once everyone is back inside and the ship's systems restored, Nora asks, "Wasn't that fun?" She hasn't bothered getting dressed again yet, unlike Mariel who did as soon as it seemed safe.
Gathered with the crew outside the bridge, Tasha grins, although her tail is canted and her scent is anxious. "Between the fear of death, losing people I love, having to kill people and non-stop uncertainty?" Her head cocks to the side. "Maybe a little!"
"Less terrifying than some caravan trips I have been on," Layth says, "So from that perspective, yes, it was fun."
"Any excuse to see Nora naked is fine with me," Fred says. This causes the red Karnor to blink and realize she still needs to attend to that. "Ah… right… so… " Nora says, with forced calm. "You learned to use your available assets, eventually. Next time, you'll know not to hesitate sending the PersoCom crew members into dangerous situations, right?"
"Sending people I care about in to danger, however immaterial, isn't my first thought," Tasha admits. "But faced with the Titanians unconscious and an unknown amount of them left, including their probably dangerous vehicle, I had to give in. This was also a different kind of fight for me, so I could probably do much better."
"Well, it's time to move on to the orbital transfer," Nora says. "I'm going to get back in uniform, and you can get out of your armor. We'll be doing it first as a Hohmann transfer using the main engines, then again as an inertial bleed using the stators. How are you two holding up? We're getting close to the immersion-time limit."
"I'm tired and I find it hard to think quickly," Layth admits, "It's like my mind has slowed down. Like I haven't slept for over a day." He stretches a bit and heads towards the exit so he can go to the bay where the armor can be stripped off. "I'll need help getting this stuff off … so whomever wants to come help." He waves then disappears out into the hall.
"Perhaps we should take a reality break then," Nora says. "And continue after you've rested. Who knows, we might be able to enter some new data and actually be able to simulate a likely landing."
Tasha gives Layth a worried look as he heads off, then answers, "I'm holding together. Between this and the Melchior's training, I think I'm getting used to virtual space and neuro-chemical reduction." She turns back, looking between those remaining. "It's good for a pilot to build tolerance to extended mind-computer interface, right?"
"That could lead to brain damage," Nora points out. "Overuse of simulation can lead to hallucinations."
"Worse than talking to ghosts, nightmares, having conversations with machines … ?" Tasha prompts, head tilting as she grins wider.
"Yes, because those things at least are real," Nora notes.
"I guess I shouldn't mention I was having some difficulty telling if this was real or not, then," the black armored Vartan remarks.
Fred and Mariel have both gone off with Layth, leaving just Gabriel and Nora with Tasha. Of course, it's PC Gabriel, not her Gabriel…
"Okay, time to wake up I think," Nora says, "So that you can get some sleep."
Tasha folds her arms, glancing between the two wolves in front of her. "Hokay, let me out. And … Thanks for the simulation, Lieutenant!" She salutes as the simulation fades around her.