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Greetings, Bearers!

While going through the literary attic of my unused works, I came across this little piece set in the Firefly universe which I had written initially for a fan website of the same name.  Although the story does not directly involve the Serenity crew, it was meant to be an accompanying piece to the series, perhaps something that could have happened in the Verse set to writing for your enjoyment.

Plus-and I can’t lie about this-I would have LOVED for Joss Whedon to see it!

Anyway, before getting to the story, I want to lay a few things down at the outset.  First, this is not my best piece of writing.  I’ve received compliments about it, and I’m really grateful for them, but looking at my work then compared to my writing now still leaves me with a shudder (Heck, for that matter my current work still makes me shudder sometimes!).  So I apologize in advance for any bumps and bruises your brain may encounter in the process of reading.

Second, The All caps setting was intentional.  The original font for the piece was OCR A Extended, as this piece is supposed to be an excerpt from an official Alliance Military dossier.  Admittedly, it does look better in the original script, but this blog site can’t seem to allow me to attach a document, and it would have been a pain in the tail to go through and manually redo the text, so I confess a bit of laziness on my part.  If you happen to know how to attach a document to a post, please let me know.  I’d be mighty thankful!

Finally, the parts that look garbled are intentional.  In the Firefly universe, many profanities are spoken in Chinese, as the future universe is supposed to be an Anglo-Sino blend of culture.  So what you’re seeing in the lines of apparent disjointed lines and scribbles is actually profanity in Chinese.  No major cussing, mind you; just little things here and there to put the reader in the mood of Captain Reynolds and his ragtag crew. 😀

So enjoy the story, and feel free to tell me what you think!  And if any of you happen to know Joss… well, feel free to nudge him this way 😉

See you in the Vein!
J. Dean

<<<<TRANSMISSION TRANSCRIPTION>>>

ATTENTION: GENERAL TSUNG, ALLIANCE CORE COMMAND

DATE RECEIVED: 13.05.2512

DATA TRANSMISSION: BLACK BOX RECORDING, CAPTAIN’S PERSONAL LOG

TRANSMISSION AUTHOR: H.J. FAN, CAPTAIN, I.A.V. MUQALI

SOURCE: AUTOMATED BLACK BOX BUOY

LOCATION: 20AU NE/WHITEFALL

SUMMARY: A G.A.B. DISTRESS SIGNAL (GENERAL AUTO-DISTRESS BEACON) WAS RECEIVED FROM THE I.A.V. MUQALI TWO DAYS AGO. THE I.A.V. SIMMS AND I.A.V. PERSHING WERE DISPATCHED TO INVESTIGATE.  WHEN THE SIMMS AND THE PERSHING ARRIVED, THEY DISCOVERED THE MUQALI’S DISTRESS BUOY, POSSESSING ONLY THE SHIP’S LOG.  NO SIGN OF THE MUQALI WAS FOUND.  SCANS OF THE AREA ARE CURRENTLY BEING PERFORMED . RESULTS: INCONCLUSIVE.

THE FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF CAPTAIN FAN’S PERSONAL LOG, FROM SEVEN DAYS AGO, AS THIS SEEMS TO COINCIDE WITH UNUSUAL EVENTS ABOARD THE MUQALI.  ANALYSIS AND CONJECTURE CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THE LOG FOLLOW THE END OF THE TRANSCRIPT, SUBMITTED BY CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICERS HENDERSON (I.A.V. SIMMS) AND FUJITA (I.A.V. PERSHING).

***LOG TRANSCRIPT***

06.05.2512-IT’S HAPPENED AGAIN.  LIEUTENANT LEE ASSURED ME THAT THE PROBLEM WAS FIXED, BUT THE MAIN LIFE SUPPORT CUT OUT FOR THE THIRD DAY IN A ROW.  I’M ABOUT READY TO TAKE THAT NEW ENSIGN TECH WHO TRANSFERRED OVER HERE FROM THE DORTMUNDER AND SEND HIM OUT THE AIRLOCK.  NO WONDER THEY WERE IN SUCH A HURRY TO DITCH HIM!  NEXT TIME IT HAPPENS, I’LL DEAL WITH HIM MYSELF.  LEE’S TOO SOFT, ANYWAY; A GOOD TACTICIAN AND THINKER, BUT FAR TOO SOFT ON DISCIPLINE.  APPARENTLY, THE FORMAL REPRIMAND I GAVE THE LIEUTENANT FOR FAILURE TO PERFORM DUTY LAST WEEK WASN’T ENOUGH.  HE ARGUED WITH ME ABOUT IT FOR HALF AN HOUR-“IT WAS JUST A CARGO HAULER!” HE KEPT REPEATING.  DOESN’T MATTER: IF A SHIP PERFORMS DANGEROUS, RECKLESS MANEUVERS LIKE THAT ONE DID (NEARLY SMASHED INTO OUR PORTSIDE TOWER!), IT’S CONSIDERED A HOSTILE ACTION.  YOU DON’T LET THEM OFF WITH A WARNING JUST BECAUSE THE PILOT BLAMES IT ON HIS COMPANION DISTRACTING HIM DURING THEIR TRIP.  IT NEEDED TO BE INVESTIGATED, AND THAT 傻瓜 OF A LIEUTENANT TOOK IT UPON HIMSELF TO LET THEM GO WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME.  NEXT TIME, IT’S GOING INTO HIS PERSONNEL FILE.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY-THE MAIN LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM IS BACK UP AND RUNNING-FINALLY.  LIEUTENANT LEE REPORTED TO ME THAT THE PROBLEM WAS AN OVERLOADED CIRCUIT, WHICH WAS PROMPTLY REPLACED-BY ONE OF OUR OWN TECHS.  I TOLD LEE TO RELIEVE THE ENSIGN (FRASIER, IS IT?) FOR THE DAY, AND HAD ENSIGN SULLIVAN PERFORM THE DUTY.  PERHAPS I SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING FRASIER AND TRANSFERRING HIM TO THE MESS HALL FOR COOK DUTY FOR A WHILE…

IN EITHER CASE, THE GLITCH WITH THE LIFE SUPPORT HAS NOT AFFECTED OUR CURRENT MISSION.  WE SHOULD BE REACHING WHITEFALL IN ANOTHER DAY TO CARRY OUT OUR DROP.  WE WERE INSTRUCTED TO NOT SET UP THE TRAINING AREA OURSELVES, AS ANOTHER SHIP CARRYING FRESH RECRUITS WOULD CARRY THAT OUT.  INTERESTING IDEA THE CORE COMMAND HAS, USING OUTER RIM PLANETS FOR BOOT CAMP AND ADVANCED TRAINING.  STILL, I WORRY ABOUT SETTLERS MEDDLING WITH THE MATERIALS.  I BROUGHT THIS UP TO CORE; THEIR RESPONSE WAS THAT WHITEFALL WAS SPARSELY POPULATED, AND THE DROP AREA WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET, NOWHERE NEAR THE VICINITY OF THE HORSE-RIDING POPULATION.  DOESN’T MAKE ME FEEL THAT MUCH BETTER…

07.05-AN EVENTFUL DAY TODAY, THAT’S FOR SURE.  THE DROP DIDN’T GO SMOOTHLY AT ALL.  THE HANGAR DOOR SHORTED OUT BEFORE FULLY OPENING, FORCING US TO SEND OUT TECH CREWS IN SUITS TO FINISH OPENING IT BY MANUAL RELEASE.  I FOUND OUT LATER THAT FRASIER HAD FAILED TO RUN A ROUTINE DIAGNOSTIC ON THE DOOR SYSTEM-A DIAGNOSTIC THAT WOULD HAVE SPOTTED AND PREVENTED THE PROBLEM WE HAD TODAY.  WHAT IS WITH THIS GUY?  HOW DID HE MAKE IT THROUGH BASIC TECH TRAINING?  WHEN I CONFRONTED HIM ON IT, HE SHEEPISHLY REPLIED THAT “IT’S RARE FOR THESE DOORS TO HAVE PROBLEMS LIKE THAT.”  I PUT THIS DOWN IN HIS PERSONNEL FILE.  I THINK I’M GOING TO HAVE HIM TRANSFERRED OFF MY SHIP AS SOON AS WE GET BACK TO CORE.  THAT WON’T BE A MOMENT TOO SOON FOR ME.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY-WE’VE JUST RECEIVED A DISTRESS SIGNAL FROM ABOUT 12 AU AWAY.  A RECORDED AUDIO MESSAGE, LOOPING EVERY NINETEEN SECONDS.  APPARENTLY, THERE’S A FREIGHTER OUT THERE THAT RAN OUT OF FUEL, AND NEEDS HELP.  THE SHIP IS ID’D AS THE TAILWIND, A NOMAD-CLASS DEEP SPACE TRANSPORT FREIGHTER, USED FOR PRIVATE SHIPPING AND COLONIZATION TRANSPORT.  WE RAN THE ID OVER WITH THE TRAFFIC LOGS, AND SHE LOOKS TO BE LEGIT.  I’VE NOTIFIED CORE COMMAND OF OUR INTENTION TO INCERCEPT AND ASSIST.

I CAN’T SAY I FEEL TOO BAD FOR THESE 無知 PILOTS OUT HERE.  THEY’RE WARNED CONSTANTLY IN FLIGHT SCHOOL TO KEEP THEIR SHIPS NO LESS THAN HALF FULL AT ALL TIMES, AND THAT IT’S BETTER TO NOT FLY OUT AT ALL THAN TO RISK RUNNING OUT AND DRIFTING IN SPACE.  THEY DON’T REALIZE HOW UNFORGIVING IT IS OUT HERE, ON THE RIM, WITH LITTLE CHANCE OF HELP, IF ANY, IF AN EMERGENCY COMES UP.  ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING HOW RARELY ALLIANCE SHIPS COME OUT THIS FAR.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY 2-I THOUGHT ABOUT DOING THIS ENTRY TOMORROW, FEELING AS EXHAUSTED AS I AM RIGHT NOW, BUT WHILE IT’S STILL FRESH IN MY MIND, I’LL JUST GET IT IN THE LOG NOW AND SLEEP IN A LITTLE TOMORROW. AFTER ALL, I AM THE COMMANDER!

LIEUTENANT LEE AWOKE ME ABOUT THREE HOURS AGO, CALLING ME TO THE BRIDGE. I ASKED HIM WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS.

*“YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FOR YOURSELF, SIR.”*        

NOT A PLEASANT THING TO BE DISTURBED IN THE MIDDLE OF A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP.  NOT AT ALL.

I WAS ON THE BRIDGE LESS THAN TEN MINUTES LATER, WITHOUT MY DRESS JACKET.  DIDN’T MATTER RIGHT THEN, SHIRT, PANTS, AND BOOTS WERE GOOD ENOUGH FOR THIS.

“WHAT’S THE MATTER?”

LEE POINTED TO THE MONITOR.  AHEAD WAS THE TAILWIND, DEVOID OF ANY DISPLAY OF POWER.  NO LIGHTS OR ENGINE ACTIVITY COULD BE SEEN AT ALL.

“ODD, REALLY.” LEE COMMENTED. “NO SIGN OF POWER, NOT EVEN AUXILIARY SYSTEMS SHOW UP ON OUR SCANS.”

“HEAT SIGNS?”

“NONE.  EITHER THE CREW’S DEAD OR THEY ABANDONED SHIP.”

“KEEP TRYING TO HAIL THEM.”

I ORDERED A BOARDING SQUAD TO SUIT UP AND GET READY, AND LEFT LEE IN CHARGE; CURIOSITY HAD GOTTEN THE BEST OF ME.

WE DOCKED AND ENTERED THROUGH THE CARGO BAY.  THE SHIP WAS COLD ALRIGHT-ICE HAD ALREADY BEGAN TO CRYSTALIZE ON THE WALLS.  SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BAY WERE STACKS OF LARGE CRATES, EACH ONE ABOUT TWO AND A HALF METERS CUBED.  THE AIR WAS CRISP BUT BREATHEABLE.

WHILE THE ORDERS WERE GIVEN TO SEARCH THE SHIP, I WAITED IN THE BAY WITH TWO GRUNTS.  PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENTS IN MY LIFE; THE ENVIRONMENT WAS BLACK SAVE FOR AREAS OF GHOSTLY BLUE GLOWINGS FROM SOME OF THE CONDUITS ON THE WALLS AND THE BARELY COMFORTING PATCHES OF WHITE FROM OUR FLASHLIGHTS.  I HAD MEMORIES OF WALKING THROUGH GUTTED SHIPS IN SHIPYARDS WITH MY FRIENDS ON DARK NIGHTS WHEN I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PREPPING FOR CLASS THE NEXT DAY.  WALKING THROUGH CORRIDORS AND ROOMS OF DIM LIGHTS AND LONG SHADOWS-SHADOWS THAT MADE ME THINK THEY WERE DOING THINGS BEHIND MY BACK, PLOTTING TO DO EVIL AND NASTY THINGS WHEN I WASN’T LOOKING.  IF MY IMAGINATION HAD BEEN ANY MORE VIVID IN THOSE SHIPS, IT WOULD HAVE KILLED ME.

THE SEARCH THROUGH THE SHIP DIDN’T TAKE TOO LONG.  “IT’S EMPTY, SIR.”

“ESCAPE SHUTTLES?”

“GONE.  THERE WERE TWO IN THE AFT SECTION OF THE SHIP. IF THEY ALL LEFT BY SHUTTLES, IT WAS A TIGHT SQUEEZE TO FIT THEM ALL IN THERE.”

“WHY LEAVE ON A DISTRESS SIGNAL THEN? WHY NOT SHUT IT OFF?”

“MY OPINION, SIR?” SERGEANT MILLS ASKED.  I NODDED. “DEPENDS.  MAYBE THEY WERE JUST IN A HURRY AND FORGOT ABOUT IT.  OR MAYBE SOMETHING SPOOKED THEM-PIRATES PERHAPS.  CAN’T SAY FOR SURE, SIR; THE SHIP’S BLACK BOX WAS APPARENTLY ERASED.”

“IF IT WAS A CASE OF PIRATES, WHY WASN’T THE SHIP BOARDED AND LOOTED?”

“AGAIN-I’M JUST GUESSING, SIR.”

“THANK YOU.  ALRIGHT, WHAT ABOUT THESE?” I NODDED TO THE CRATES.

ANOTHER GRUNT-A CORPORAL, MCPHERSON, I BELIEVE HIS NAME WAS-STEPPED FORWARD. “AHH… MANIFEST FOR IT ALL IS RIGHT HERE, SIR-LOOKS LIKE SOME FOOD, SUPPLIES, PERSONAL BELONGINGS, AND THE LIKE.  NOTHING UNUSUAL.”

“SHOULD WE INSPECT THE CARGO CRATES, SIR?” MILLS ASKED.

“NO. I DON’T SEE A NEED TO DO SO, NOT RIGHT NOW.  BUT LET’S MOVE THIS CARGO OVER TO THE SHIP. WE’LL SEND A SALVAGE TEAM TO TOW HER IN LATER.  IF THERE ARE PERSONAL BELONGINGS, IT’S ONLY FITTING THAT WE RETURN THEM TO THE NEXT OF KIN; I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE ANY OF IT TO GET IN THE HANDS OF PIRATES.  GET A LIFT READY TO MOVE THESE BOXES. HOW MANY OF THEM ARE THERE?”

“TWENTY-FOUR, SIR.”

“DO IT.”

THAT WAS ALL THREE HOURS AGO.  I INSTRUCTED MILLS TO MAKE SURE THE CARGO WAS STORED IN THE SECURITY HOLD AND PUT UNDER LOCK AND KEY, IN CASE ANY OF THE 竊賊 AMONG OUR MEN GET IDEAS ABOUT PLUNDERING OUR NEW FOUND SPOILS.  FINAL ORDER WAS GIVEN TO LIEUTENANT LEE TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THOSE TWO SHUTTLES.

IT’S SHUTEYE TIME.

08.05-THE SALVAGE TEAM WAS CONTACTED; THEY’LL BE OUT HERE IN THREE DAYS TO TOW IN THE TAILWIND.  THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM DIDN’T SEEM TOO PLEASED THAT I HADN’T DONE THE JOB MYSELF; TOUGH FOR HIM.  THAT’S WHAT HE GETS PAID TO DO.  ANYWAY, IT DIDN’T MATTER.  WE RECEIVED A CALL FROM CORE TO REPORT TO PARADISO AND AWAIT FURTHER ORDERS (TRANSLATION: NOTHING TO DO RIGHT NOW).  IT’LL BE A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO GET A LITTLE SHORE LEAVE.

I HAD HALF-CONSIDERED OPENING THE CARGO BOXES UP FOR INSPECTION, BUT CHANGED MY MIND.  IT’LL BE LEFT UP TO THE PARADISO BASE TO DO THAT. AND I DON’T WANT ANY ACCUSATIONS OF THEFT TO BE PUT UPON ME OR MY CREW.  WE’RE SOLDIERS, NOT PIRATES, UNLIKE THAT DISGRACE OF A COMMANDER GLASSMAN ABOARD THE BEIJING. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS, CASUALLY STOPPING PASSENGER SHIPS AND CONFISCATING THINGS WITHOUT PERMISSION?  HE EMBARRASSES US ALL.

NOTHING MORE EVENTFUL TO REPORT TODAY, SO FAR.  SPACE HAS BEEN RELATIVELY QUIET SINCE THE END OF THE WAR WITH THE BROWNCOATS; LITTLE MORE THAN SKIRMISHES WITH A FEW INSURGENTS HERE AND THERE, BUT OTHERWISE IT’S BEEN PEACEFUL.  SURPRISES ME, REALLY; RARELY DO ENEMIES SIMPLY DISAPPEAR OR ASSIMILATE INTO SOCIETY LIKE THAT.  I STILL WONDER WHETHER OR NOT THERE’S A BUILDUP OF OPPOSITION GOING ON SOMEWHERE IN THE GALAXY, PERHAPS OUT HERE ON THE RIM.  PERFECT PLACE FOR ONE; WE’RE HARDLY EVER OUT HERE TO ENFORCE THE LAW, ALTHOUGH IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME UNTIL WE GET THE SUPPORT TO DO SO.  I READ A NEWS TRANSMISSION THE OTHER DAY SEEING THAT VOLUNTARY ENROLLMENT IN THE MILITARY CORPS IS UP, SO THE MANPOWER IS COMING TO ENFORCE THE LAW OUT HERE.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY-SOMETIMES I WONDER IF MY GRAVEYARD SHIFT SENIOR OFFICERS HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO.

I RECEIVED A CALL AT 0245 HOURS FROM LEE, AWAKING ME FROM A VERY PLEASANT SLEEP-SOMETHING I DON’T GET AS OFTEN AS I’D LIKE.

*“SIR, LIEUTENANT EDDY CALLED THE BRIDGE A FEW MINUTES AGO, COMPLAINING ABOUT AN UNAUTHORIZED DOWNLOAD.”*

“DOWNLOAD OF WHAT?”

*“THE SHIP’S COMPLETE SCHEMATICS.”*

譴責它! WHY DO I GET BOTHERED WITH STUFF LIKE THIS. “LAST I CHECKED, MR. LEE, MR. EDDY WORKS IN ENGINEERING, AND IT’S QUITE ROUTINE FOR ENGINEERING TO LOOK AT THINGS LIKE SCHEMATICS.”

“YES, SIR.  I’M AWARE OF THAT, BUT MR. EDDY’S STANDING ORDER IS THAT NOBODY ACCESSES ANY FILES OR DATA LIKE THAT WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION.”

I SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SURPRISED BY THAT.  I REMEMBERED READING IN EDDY’S PERSONNEL FILE ABOUT THE INDICENT ABOARD A TROOP TRANSPORT HE SERVED ON, DURING THE UNIFICATION WAR.  SEVERAL BROWNCOAT SYMPATHIZERS IN HIS ENGINEERING UNIT SABOTAGED THE SHIP’S DRIVE SYSTEM RIGHT UNDER HIS NOSE.  HALF THE CREW DIED FROM THE INCIDENT.  A LITTLE PARANOIA ON THE PART OF MR. EDDY WAS UNDERSTANDABLE.

STILL, THAT WAS THEN… “IT WAS PROBABLY ENSIGN FRASIER, FINALLY LEARNING TO DO HIS JOB.  TELL EDDY TO DROP IT, UNLESS IT’S SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE IMPORTANT, LIKE THE LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS BLOWING UP.”

“HE WON’T LIKE THAT, SIR.”

“WHEN AND IF MR. EDDY EVER BECOMES MY SUPERIOR, MR. LEE, THEN I’LL WORRY ABOUT WHAT HE DOES AND DOESN’T LIKE. GOODNIGHT, MR. LEE.” I SNAPPED.

“YES, SIR. BRIDGE OUT.”

I’M STILL UP FROM THAT, AN HOUR LATER.  I ONLY MAKE THIS ENTRY OF NOTE BECAUSE I’VE NOTHING ELSE TO DO RIGHT NOW, AND I’M HAVING A HARD TIME GETTING BACK TO SLEEP.

09.05-STILL NO SIGN OF THOSE ESCAPE SHUTTLES.  ACCORDING TO THE TECHNICAL INFORMATION, IT’S UNLIKELY THAT THE LIFE SUPPORT FOR THE SHUTTLES WOULD LAST MORE THAN ANOTHER DAY, ESPECIALLY WITH SO MANY ABOARD EACH SHUTTLE.

AND YET ANOTHER ODD COMPLAINT CAME IN.  CHIEF SURGEON HAWKINS CAME UP TO THE BRIDGE-SOMETHING HE NEVER DOES-AND WAS RANTING ABOUT A BOX OF MISSING MEDICAL SUPPLIES.

“WHERE WERE THEY?” I ASKED.

“SECURITY HOLD.  THEY’RE NOT THERE ANYMORE.” I SWEAR EVERYTIME THAT MAN SPEAKS, NO MATTER WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT, IT COMES ACROSS AS AN ANGRY RANT.

“WHAT’S IN THE BOX?”

“MOSTLY REPLACEMENTS FOR INCISION TOOLS-SCISSORS, SCALPELS, ALONG WITH SOME GAUZE AND MISCELLANEOUS DRUGS.”

“PERHAPS YOU SHOULD ASK SERGEANT MILLS, DOC.  HE WAS IN CHARGE OF MOVING THE CRATES FROM THE TAILWIND INTO THE HOLD.  HE PROBABLY TOOK IT UP TO YOUR MEDICAL STORAGE LOCKER.”

“I CAN’T FIND THE GOOD SERGEANT! I’VE PAGED HIM A DOZEN TIMES THIS MORNING!”

“HE PROBABLY THINKS YOU’RE TRYING TO GET HIM IN FOR A CHECK-UP.  LOOK, HE’S ON DUTY IN ANOTHER THREE HOURS; THIS IS HIS PERSONAL TIME NOW.  SO UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED THE SUPPLIES FOR A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, WAIT UNTIL THEN.”

THAT WAS LESS THAN PLEASING TO THE DOCTOR, AS HE STORMED OFF.  I DIDN’T CARE.  I PRIDE MYSELF ON BEING FAIRLY STRICT.  BUT I’M NOT GOING TO BE UNREASONABLE. I HAD ALREADY DECREED THAT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, ALL CREW DOWN TIME WILL NOT BE INTERFERED WITH.  I’VE SEEN TOO MANY CAPTAINS CUT INTO THE PERSONAL TIME OF THEIR CREW FOR UNNECESSARY REASONS.  SOMETIMES, AS A RESULT, THE CREW ENDS UP WITH MORE FATIGUE AND LESS EFFICIENCY ON THE JOB.  I WASN’T GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN HERE.

CRANKY OLD MAN NEEDS SOME SHORE LEAVE ANYWAY.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY-I’VE HAD SIX CALLS FROM DIFFERENT DUTY STATIONS TODAY COMPLAINING THAT PERSONNEL HAVE NOT BEEN REPORTING FOR DUTY.  A TOTAL OF THIRTEEN PEOPLE; THIS HAD BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER “PARTY ASSEMBLY” LIKE THE ONE THAT HAPPENED SIX MONTHS AGO.  TWENTY-FOUR CREWMAN HIDING OUT IN THE HOLD, DRINKING AWAY, GAMBLING-AND MILLS HAD TOLD ME I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT WHAT ELSE WAS DOWN THERE.  APPARENTLY, A MONTH OF HULL INSPECTION DUTY AND CLEANING ISN’T ENOUGH FOR THESE PEOPLE TO LEARN THEIR LESSON.  MAYBE BRIG TIME WILL HELP THEM GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER! 愚蠢的白癡!!!

I HAVE SECURITY LOOKING AROUND FOR THEM NOW.  CONSIDERING THE SIZE OF THIS CRUISER, AND THE MYRIAD OF PLACES TO HIDE, THIS MIGHT TAKE A WHILE.  STILL, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT MILLS WOULD BE IN WITH A GROUP LIKE THIS.  HE’S NOT THE TYPE TO SHIRK DUTY.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY 2-I DON’T BELIEVE IT!  IN ALL OF MY TIME AS A COMMANDER, I HAVE NEVER HAD AS MANY PROBLEMS ABOARD A SHIP AS I HAVE ON THIS ONE!

ABOUT TWO HOURS AGO, THE SHIP WENT COMPLETELY DEAD.  EVERYTHING-POWER, LIFE SUPPORT, COMMUNICATIONS, ENGINE POWER-WAS DOWN.  AUXILIARY SYSTEMS FAILED TO KICK IN AS WELL.

WE PULLED OUT THE BATTERY-OPERATED HAND-HELD COMM UNITS. “WHAT’S GOING ON DOWN THERE!?”

SULLIVAN ANSWERED “I DON’T KNOW, SIR! WE’RE LOOKING INTO IT!”

THE NAME FRASIER CAME TO MIND; I IMMEDIATELY CLENCHED MY TEETH.  IF HE WAS DOING SOMETHING HE SHOULDN’T HAVE DOWN THERE…”GET US UP AND RUNNING FAST, MR. SULLIVAN!!!”

NEARLY AN HOUR LATER, THE SHIP CAME TO LIFE AGAIN-ALL EXCEPT FOR THE PORT TOWER, WHICH WAS STILL DARK.  SULLIVAN CONTACTED ME AGAIN, ASKING ME TO COME DOWN TO ENGINEERING.  WHEN I MADE IT DOWN THERE, HE EXPLAINED.

“WE’RE RUNNING A CREW UP THERE NOW TO SEE WHAT THE DEAL IS. I’LL BE JOINING THEM SHORTLY.  PROBABLY HAD IT WORSE THAN WE DID.”

“WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?”

SULLIVAN MOTIONED ME TOWARD A DUCT OPENING NEARLY A METER WIDE.  SQUATTING DOWN HE SHINED A LIGHT INTO THE DIMLY LIT TUBE.

“BACK THERE-“HE BEGAN “-ARE THE JUNCTIONS FOR THE PRIMARY AND AUXILIARY POWER CONDUITS.  THEY BOTH ENDED UP GETTING FRIED FROM SOME SORT OF OVERLOAD.”

“WHAT ABOUT SURGE PROTECTORS?”

“THEY DIDN’T KICK ON FOR WHATEVER REASON.  I’M HAVING THEM LOOKED AT RIGHT NOW.  WE’RE RUNNING FINE, EXCEPT FOR INTERNAL SCANNERS; THAT’S GONNA TAKE A LITTLE WHILE TO GET WORKING AGAIN; THEY SEEMED TO GET FRIED PRETTY BADLY. COMMUNICATIONS ARRAY GOT SHOT TOO.  BOTH PRIMARY AND AUXILIARY COMM SYSTEMS ARE DEAD, SO IT’S GOING TO BE A LITTLE TIME BEFORE WE CAN CALL ANYBODY.”

“HOW LONG ON THOSE SYSTEMS?”

SULLIVAN SHRUGGED. “A DAY OR TWO AT MOST.”

I EYED SULLIVAN CAREFULLY. “FRASIER WASN’T MESSING WITH ANYTHING BACK HERE, WAS HE?”

SULLIVAN’S BROW WRINKLED INTO A PUZZLED FROWN. “THAT WAS MY FIRST THOUGHT TOO.  I SHOULD HAVE REPORTED THIS TO YOU EARLIER, BUT I CAUGHT HIM SCREWING AROUND WITH THE RADIATION CONTAINMENT UNIT. HE TOLD ME HE LEARNED A TRICK TO MODIFY THE UNIT AND GET US TO RUN FASTER.  PROMPTLY I THREATENED TO REPORT HIM.  BUT NO, I’M PRETTY SURE HE WAS AT HIS DUTY STATION THE WHOLE TIME. FUNNY THOUGH-I HAVEN’T SEEN HIM SINCE THE POWER CAME BACK.  HIM OR A FEW OTHERS.”

“THEY DIDN’T LEAVE ENGINEERING?”

“NOT THAT I KNOW OF.  NOBODY ELSE HAS SEEN THEM EITHER.  ENSIGN CHO OVERHEARD HIM AND A COUPLE OF OTHERS TALKING ABOUT GOING DOWN INTO THE DUCT TO CHECK OUT THE JUNCTIONS, INCIDENTALLY.”

“DID THEY?”

“IF THEY DID, I DON’T KNOW WHY THEY’D STILL BE IN THERE.  THE JUNCTION’S NOT THAT FAR DOWN.”

I PEERED INTO THE DUCT AGAIN. “THESE THINGS RUN THROUGH THE ENTIRE SHIP, DON’T THEY?”

“A GOOD PART OF THE SHIP.  BUT I WOULDN’T TRAVEL THROUGH THERE TOO EXTENSIVELY; SOME OF THE SPOTS HAVE EXPOSED CIRCUITS THAT’LL FRY YOU IF YOU TOUCH THEM.”

“ALRIGHT, WHAT ABOUT THE PORT TOWER? IT’S STILL DEAD, WILL THE CREW IN THERE BE ALRIGHT?”

“LIFE SUPPORT SHOULD BE PUMPING THROUGH .  AS TO THE OTHER POWER LINES, THEY’RE PROBABLY FRIED, TOO.  I’VE GOT A TEAM GOING UP THERE.”

AFTER CONGRATULATING SULLIVAN ON THE JOB, I WENT BACK UP TO THE BRIDGE. “ANY CONTACT FROM OUR CREW IN THE PORT TOWER?”

“I HAVE FLIGHT SERGEANT GATES ON THE HORN, SIR.” THE COMM OFFICER ANSWERED BACK.

GATES’ VOICE WAS LACED WITH STATIC *”THIS IS THE ONLY BATTERY COMM UNIT WE COULD FI…E REST OF THEM DON’T HAVE…TTERIES IN THEM, AND THIS…HAVE MUCH MORE POWER LEFT.”*

“ARE YOUR EMERGENCY LIGHTS RUNNING?”

*”YES, SIR, BUT EVEN W… RUNNING IT’S…OO DARK IN.. PASSAGES.  SIR, WHY..N DOORS LOCKED?”*

THE COMM OFFICER AND I FROWNED AT EACH OTHER. “I DIDN’T GET THAT, SERGEANT.  REPEAT YOURSELF, PLEASE.”

*”I S… ARE THE ACCESS DOORS FROM THE TOWER TO THE REST O…LOCKED?”

I PAUSED. “THE ACCESS DOORS… TO THE TOWER?”

*”YES, SIR.”*

I SWITCHED BACK TO ENGINEERING. “SULLIVAN, I WANT A CREW DOWN TO THE ACCESSWAY DOORS TO THE PORT TOWER.  SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THEM. AND SULLIVAN-“I ADDED QUIETLY “-I WANT AN ARMED DETAIL WITH YOU AS WELL.”

APPARENTLY, I HADN’T BEEN QUIET ENOUGH SAYING IT, BECAUSE SEVERAL ON THE BRIDGE TURNED AROUND AND LOOKED AT ME AFTER I SAID THAT WITH SURPRISED EYES.

“JUST A PRECAUTION, FOLKS.” I REPLIED.

I NEED TO GET TO THE GALLEY; I’M GETTING HUNGRY.  HAVEN’T EATEN ALL DAY TODAY.

SUPPLIMENTAL ENTRY 3-THE SHIP IS ON ALERT.  EVERYTHING JUST HIT THE FAN.  ABOUT SIX HOURS AGO, A WARHEAD DETONATED INSIDE THE HANGAR BAY.  THE DETONATION TRIGGERED A CHAIN OF EXPLOSIONS THAT ENDED UP DESTROYING ALL BUT ONE OF OUR GUNSHIPS.  THE BAY DOOR RUPTURED, IT HAD A HOLE HALF A METER WIDE PUT INTO IT.  REPAIRS WERE EFFECTED IMMEDIATELY; BETWEEN THE REPAIR CREW AND THE RUPTURE, THE FIRES DIDN’T LAST LONG. BUT THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE.  THE DOCKING BAY IS GOING TO BE OUT OF COMMISSION FOR QUITE SOME TIME.

BUT THAT’S NOT THE STRANGEST PART OF IT.  REPAIR CREW CHIEF SIMPSON CAME IN TO GIVE ME A REPORT “HOW MANY MEN DID WE LOSE?” I ASKED.

“THERE’S NO BODY COUNT, SIR.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?  SOMEBODY HAD TO BE IN THE HANGAR.  THERE’S A SKELETON CREW OF AT LEAST SEVEN MAINTENANCE PEOPLE AT ALL TIMES IN THERE!”

“YES, SIR, I KNOW THAT, BUT NO BODIES WERE FOUND.  THERE WAS BLOOD ALL OVER THE BAY FLOOR, BUT NO BODIES.”

“FROM THE EXPLOSION?”

“NO, SIR, I DON’T THINK SO.  THE BLOOD LOOKED TO BE POOLED AND SPLATTERED IN CONCENTRATED AREAS.  EXPLOSIONS LIKE THIS USUALLY DON’T LEAVE BLOOD IN THIS MANNER.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

“IT’S A GUESS AT THIS POINT, SIR, BUT I THINK THAT BLOOD WAS THERE PRIOR TO THE EXPLOSION.”

I THOUGHT FOR A MOMENT “WHAT ABOUT THE RUPTURE?  COULD THE BODIES HAVE GONE OUTSIDE?”

“THAT’S UNLIKELY, SIR.  THE REPAIR CREW ARRIVED VERY QUICKLY; MAINTENANCE CREWS KNOW THE PROCEDURE FOR SECURING THEMSELVES WHEN A RUPTURE OCCURS.  THE NOTION THAT THE ENTIRE CREW OF SEVEN WAS PROPELLED THROUGH THAT LITTLE HOLE IS A PRETTY FAR STRETCH.”

“SO YOU’RE SAYING THEY DIED BEFORE THE EXPLOSION?”

“THAT’S HOW IT LOOKS, SIR.”

“ALRIGHT.. SO WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM?”

BEFORE SIMPSON COULD ANSWER, ANOTHER CALL INTERRUPTED US *”CORPORAL MCPHERSON, SIR.  I THINK YOU SHOULD COME SEE THIS.”*

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

*“WEAPONS LOCKER, SIR.”* I FELT MY STOMACH TIGHTEN A BIT. I ORDERED SIMPSON TO INVESTIGATE AS I PROCEEDED ON.

WHEN I ARRIVED, MCPHERSON AND TWO OTHER ARMED SECURITY MEN WERE STANDING NEXT TO THE OPEN DOOR, LOOKING VERY GRIM.

“I’M AFRAID TO ASK WHAT HAPPENED HERE.” I GRUMBLED, APPROACHING THEM. “REPORT.”

MCPHERSON BEGAN “THIS LOCKER WAS FOUND OPENED, SIR.  THE DOOR HAD BEEN UNLOCKED WITH AN ID CARD AND JUST LEFT OPEN.  WE INVESTIGATED AND DISCOVERED THAT ALL OF THE AMMUNITION IS GONE.”

“AMMUNITION?  NO RIFLES OR SIDEARMS TAKEN?”

“NO SIR.  JUST AMMUNITION.  ALL OF IT, MEANING ALL WE HAVE IS WHAT’S IN OUR RIFLES NOW.  BUT LOOK HERE-“

HE GESTURED TO  ELONGATED STREAKS OF BROWNISH-RED ON THE FLOOR.  I LOOKED BACK UP AT HIM “BLOOD?”

“LOOKS LIKE IT, SIR.”

“WHOSE ID CARD WAS USED?”

MCPHERSON SLAPPED A FEW BUTTONS ON THE CONTROL PANEL.  HE TURNED BACK AROUND SLOWLY, BEFUDDLED “IT SAYS THAT SERGEANT MILLS WAS HERE.  BUT I’VE NOT SEEN HIM AT ALL TODAY.  HE DIDN’T REPORT FOR DUTY.”

I CURSED LOUDLY.  “WHAT IN THE 地獄 IS GOING ON WITH THIS SHIP?!”

THEN IT DAWNED ON ME WHEN THIS HAD ALL STARTED.  QUICKLY I TURNED TO MCPHERSON. “TAKE A FULL SECURITY TEAM WITH YOU, GET IN THE CARGO HOLD, AND OPEN THOSE CRATES FROM THE TAILWIND NOW!”

AS THE CORPORAL CRISPLY NODDED AND COMPLIED, I SLAPPED THE INTERCOM BUTTON AND CALLED THE BRIDGE.  LIEUTENANT LEE BEGAN TO SPEAK “SIR, WE’VE HAD MORE REPORTS OF MISSING CREWMEN, AND I WAS JUST ABOUT TO-“

“PUT THE SHIP ON RED ALERT, MR. LEE.” I ORDERED SHARPLY. “WE HAVE INTRUDERS ABOARD THE SHIP.  EVERY CREWMAN WHO CAN NEEDS TO BE ARMED WITH WHATEVER WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION WE CAN SPARE.”

“YES, SIR!” LEE STEPPED RIGHT IN LINE; GOOD OF HIM TO DO.

“AND I WANT A FULL INFANTRY SQUAD FULLY ARMED TO MEET ME AT THE PORT TOWER ACCESSWAY.”

“YES, SIR.  SIR, I HAVE MR. SULLIVAN CALLING IN FROM THE PORT TOWER.”

SULLIVAN IMMEDIATELY BEGAN. “COMMANDER-“

“IS THE POWER RESTORED?”

“YES, SIR, BUT…” HE SOUNDED FEEBLE, WEAK. “I THINK YOU NEED TO SEE THIS.”

I HEADED FOR THE PORT TOWER ACCESSWAY, STOPPING BRIEFLY AT MY QUARTERS TO PICK UP MY SIDEARM AND AN OLD COMBAT KNIFE FROM MY DAYS IN INFANTRY.  I HAD ONLY ONE FULLY LOADED MAGAZINE WITH ME; IT WOULD HAVE TO WORK FOR NOW.

ON MY WAY THERE, MCPHERSON CALLED UP, CONFIRMING WHAT I HAD FEARED: THE BOXES WERE EMPTY NOW.

“WE FOUND ONE AIR TANK IN EACH CRATE, SIR, OTHER THAN THAT, NOTHING ELSE.  THE CRATES ARE FITTED WITH REFRIDGERATION CONDUITS IN THE PANELS IN ORDER TO BLOCK HEAT SCANS.”

THEY WERE HIDING IN THE CRATES ALL ALONG.  HIDING, AND WAITING FOR THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY TO COME OUT.  IT WAS ALL MAKING SENSE NOW: THE SCHEMATICS DOWNLOAD, THE POWER OUTAGE, THE AMMUNITION BEING STOLEN, THE MISSING CREW MEMBERS-WE WERE BEING PICKED OFF A LITTLE AT A TIME.

I ANGRILY CURSED MYSELF FOR NOT CHECKING THE CRATES BEFORE THEY WERE BROUGHT ABOARD.  THIS COULD HAVE BEEN EASILY PREVENTED JUST BY LOOKING INTO THE CRATES.

“THAT’S INSANE, SIR.” MCPHERSON COMMENTED. “TRYING TO TAKE OVER A MILITARY SHIP?”

“THEY HAD THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE, MR. MCPHERSON.” I GRAVELY REPLIED.  “THEY HIT FIRST, AND THEY KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WERE DOING.”

I ORDERED HIM TO START SWEEPING THE SHIP, AND TO SEND A SQUAD INTO THE ENGINEERING DUCTS.  WHOEVER IT WAS WAS SMART ENOUGH TO STAY HIDDEN. PROBABLY USING THE DUCTS TO GET AROUND.  THEY KNEW WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO.  AND THEY COULD BE ARMED, WELL-ARMED.

HOW MANY WERE THERE?  ONE PER CRATE? TWO? THREE?  EACH OF THOSE CRATES COULD SNUGLY FIT THREE PEOPLE, EVEN WITH THE AIR TANK. THAT’S A BOARDING PARTY OF FORTY-EIGHT TO SEVENTY-TWO; A FORMIDABLE FIGHTING FORCE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY HAD THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE ON THEIR SIDE FOR TWO DAYS.  THEY’VE SHOWN US THAT THEY CAN MOVE QUICKLY AND STEALTHILY; THEY KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT STARSHIP ENGINEERING TO WREAK HAVOC ON OUR SHIP.  AND HOW MANY OF MY CREW DID THEY TAKE OUT?  ALREADY, A SIZEABLE NUMBER OF OUR SHIP IS UNACCOUNTED FOR.

AND IF THEY’RE OPERATING IN THE PORT TOWER NOW, UNDETECTED…

I MADE IT TO THE ACCESSWAY, THE SQUAD WAITING FOR ME. I MOTIONED FOR THEM TO BEGIN A SWEEP.  CAREFULLY, THEY BEGAN TO ENTER.  I COUGHED, NEARLY CHOKING FROM THE ACRID SMELL THAT HIT MY NOSE AS I WALKED IN.

NOT TWENTY SECONDS AFTER THE BEGINNING OF THE SWEEP, I HEARD A SHOUT FROM THE SQUAD POINTMAN. QUICKLY RUNNING THROUGH, I SPOTTED SULLIVAN AND HIS TEAM.  BUT MY ATTENTION ON HIM WAS SHORT, BECAUSE WHAT WAS IN THE REST OF THE CORRIDOR ARRESTED MY GAZE.

THE WALLS WERE WASHED IN STREAKS AND GLOBS OF BLOOD THAT TRAILED DOWN TO POOLS OF CONSIDERABLE SIZE ON THE FLOOR, AS IF SOMEBODY HAD TAKEN A BUCKET OF BLOOD AND MADLY SWUNG IT ABOUT THE AREA.  UPON THE WALLS WERE BLOODY HAND PRINTS AND WHAT APPEARED TO BE IMPRINTS OF BODIES PRESSED AGAINST THE WALLS.  SOMEWHERE BEHIND ME, ONE OF THE SQUAD MEMBERS VOMITED.  I COULDN’T BLAME HIM, THE URGE HIT ME TOO.

BUT IT WAS THE SIGHT ABOVE SULLIVAN THAT WAS THE WORST.

HANGING BY THE ANKLES WERE A CLUSTERED GROUP OF MUTILATED BODIES, NOT ONLY STRIPPED OF THEIR CLOTHING, BUT ALSO OF LARGE SECTIONS OF SKIN, EXPOSING CRIMSON MUSCLES AND ORGANS.  SOME OF THE BODIES HAD LARGE PORTIONS OF FLESH CUT FROM THEM, AND SOME WERE MISSING ARMS.  ONE WAS EVEN WITHOUT A LEG.  TWO WERE GUTTED ENTIRELY, WITH THE REMAINING ENTRAILS DROOPING FROM THE CAVITIES THAT WERE ONCE INTESTINE-FILLED STOMACHS.

“在所有那些的名字中是莊嚴的…” IT WAS ALL I COULD UTTER.

ON THE FLOOR AT MY FEET WAS A DOGTAG CHAIN.  I PICKED IT UP, WIPING THE STICKY BLOOD FROM ITS FACE, READING THE NAME: MILLS.

“WHO DID THIS?” ONE OF THE SQUAD MEMBERS ASKED QUIETLY.

“THIS ISN’T THE WORK OF PIRATES.” SULLIVAN DRYLY SPOKE.

“THIS ISN’T THE WORK OF MEN…” I ADDED, LOOKING AT HIM KNOWINGLY.

“SIR?” ASKED ANOTHER SQUAD MEMBER.  I TURNED AROUND, LOOKING AT THE VERY YOUNG SOLDIER. BARELY EIGHTEEN, I THOUGHT TO MYSELF.

“EVER HEAR OF A REAVER, SON?” I ASKED.

THE SOLDIER WINCED. “YOU MEAN LIKE FROM THE OLD KID STORIES? THE INSANE PEOPLE FROM THE RIM?”

“THEY’RE NOT STORIES, SON.  LOOK AROUND YOU.  AND THESE THINGS STOPPED BEING HUMAN A LONG TIME AGO.”

SULLIVAN STEPPED FORWARD. “ALMOST EVERYWHERE, IT’S LIKE THIS.  THEY-WHOEVER DID THIS-WERE ABLE TO GET THROUGH THE ENTIRE TOWER.  I FOUND NO SURVIVORS AT ALL.”

“ANY BODIES OF THE ENEMY?”

“NO, SIR.  IF ANY OF THEM WERE KILLED, THEY MADE SURE TO TAKE THEIR DEAD WITH THEM.”

“GOOD BATTLE STRATEGY,” I MUSED. “TRYING TO PLAY A PSYCH GAME ON US.”

“YOU THINK IT REALLY WAS REAVERS?” SULLIVAN ASKED. “NOT JUST SOMEBODY DOING A REAVER-STYLE MASSACRE TO SCARE US?”

“I BELIEVE IN REAVERS, MR. SULLIVAN.  I KNOW MOST ALLIANCE COMMANDERS DON’T, BUT I’VE SEEN AND HEARD ENOUGH IN MY TIME TO BELIEVE IT.  PIRATES DON’T DO THINGS LIKE THIS, EVEN MARAUDERS.  THEY WOULD HAVE RUN FROM AN ALLIANCE CRUISER. THEY’RE NOT THIS INSANE, AND THEY DON’T OPERATE LIKE THIS.”

SULLIVAN SIGHED. “SHOULD WE GET A CLEANUP CREW IN HERE?”

“NO.. NOT NOW-“I KEPT FIGHTING WAVES OF QUEASINESS, TRYING NOT TO LOSE MY FOOD.

I CALLED MCPHERSON UP AND UPDATED HIM.

“WE NEED ALL THE MANPOWER WE CAN MUSTER TO TRACK THESE THINGS DOWN AND KILL THEM.  I WANT ANOTHER SQUAD TO START AT THE NEAREST ENGINEERING DUCT ENTRANCE AND START A SWEEP.  MAKE SURE THEY’RE NOT HIDING ANYWHERE ELSE UP HERE.”

“SIR, WE’RE SPREADING OUR MEN THIN AS IT IS.”

“I’M AWARE OF THAT.  CALL OFF THE SEARCH FOR ENSIGN FRASIER AND THE OTHER MISSING CREW.  I DOUBT WE’LL FIND THEM, NOT ALIVE AT ANY RATE.”

“YES, SIR.”

I TURNED AROUND, LOOKING AT SULLIVAN. “CLEAR OUT, EVERYBODY.  SEAL OFF THIS DOOR AND THE OTHER DOORS TO THE PORT TOWER. NOBODY GOES ANYWHERE IN THIS SHIP ALONE.”

WE CLOSED OFF THE TOWER, PROMPTLY SEALING IT.

I NEED TO LAY DOWN FOR A BIT AND SLEEP, BUT I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THAT, OR IF I EVEN WANT TO.  I’M SCARED, SCARED OUT OF MY MIND.  IT’S AS IF EVERY NIGHTMARE, EVERY CHILDHOOD EVIL FROM THE RECESSES OF MY MIND HAS BECOME REALITY.

REAVERS… GOD HELP US.

10.05-THIS WILL BE MY LAST ENTRY.  I PLAN TO JETTISON THE LOG ALONG WITH A G.A.B. BUOY SHORTLY.

I’M ON THE BRIDGE, JUST ME AND HALF A DOZEN OFFICERS.  I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE HAS HAPPENED.  THE EMERGENCY LIGHTS ARE RUNNING, BUT THE SHIP IS DEAD ONCE AGAIN.  EVERYTHING EXCEPT FOR LIFE SUPPORT.  THE CONSOLES ARE DEAD; WE’RE FLYING THROUGH SPACE BLIND TO WHAT’S OUTSIDE AND WHAT’S INSIDE.

I WAS AWAKENED TO MCPHERSON OUTSIDE MY DOOR.  HIS FACE WAS BLOODIED AND DIRTIED, AND HE WAS BLEEDING PROFUSELY FROM HIS ARM, WHICH HAD A CLEANLY CUT CHUNK TAKEN FROM IT.  HIS EYES WERE WIDE AND TERRIFIED.

I SAT HIM DOWN AS HE EXPLAINED WHAT HAD HAPPENED THROUGH A WEAK AND PANTING VOICE. “THEY HAD JURY-RIGGED EXPLOSIVES INSIDE THE DUCT, SIR.. PROBABLY FROM THE AMMUNITION THEY HAD TAKEN FROM THE WEAPONS LOCKER.. THE EXPLOSIVES WERE PUT BEHIND A.. BEHIND A PANEL. THEY WENT OFF.  HALF THE SQUAD WAS KILLED. THEN.. THEY… THEY CAME.. OH SIR, SIR, THEY SWARMED US AND BEGAN TO DO..THINGS…THEY’RE NOT HUMAN, THEY’RE NOT HUMAN!!! THEIR FACES.. FACES OF MONSTERS.. MONSTERS!!!!”

MCPHERSON BEGAN TO SHAKE AND SOB UNCONTROLLABLY.  I TRIED TO GET HIS ATTENTION, BUT HE DROPPED TO THE FLOOR, BALLING UP INTO A FETAL POSITION, WAILING.

SUDDENLY, A KLAXON SOUNDED OFF.  I RAN TO MY ROOM COMM. “WHAT’S GOING ON?”

*”IT’S SULLIVAN, SIR!!”* CAME LEE’S SHAKEN VOICE. *”ENGINEERING’S BEING ATTACKED!”*

“GET A SQUAD DOWN THERE AND PUT ME THROUGH TO ENGINEERING NOW!!”

THE COMM CLICKED.  FOR A MOMENT THERE WERE SHOUTS OF COMMANDS AND DESPERATION, PUNCTUATED BY THE FIRE OF AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, AND OTHER NOISES-STRANGE, WET CRUNCHING NOISES.  UNNATURAL SOUNDING TEARING NOISES, LIKE THE SOUND OF WET CLOTH BEING RENT VIOLENTLY.

“SULLIVAN!! SULLIVAN!! WHAT’S GOING ON!?”

SULLIVAN DID NOT REPLY, NOT TO ME. *”NO!! NOOOOOO!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”*

HIS CRY FOR MERCY WAS DROWNED OUT BY SOMETHING ELSE, SOMETHING INHUMAN, THAT LET OUT A MALEVOLENT, NIGHTMARISH SCREAM.  A SCREAM THAT WAS MADE BY SOMETHING THAT ONCE WAS A MAN, THAT ONCE WALKED AMONG MEN, THAT ONCE SPOKE OUR LANGUAGE AND SHARED OUR CULTURE.  SOMETHING THAT NOW TERRORIZED OUR SHIP.  OUR SHIP, A CREW OF SOLDIERS, UNAFRAID OF ANYTHING, WAS NOW AFRAID, DEEPLY AFRAID, MORE AFRAID THAN WE HAD EVER BEEN AS CHILDREN. THIS NIGHTMARE WAS REAL.

MOMENTS LATER, THE COMM REGISTERED DEAD STATIC.  I PUNCHED ANOTHER BUTTON. “LEE, ORDER ALL AVAILABLE HANDS TO THE BRIDGE.” I SAID WEAKLY.

TAKING HOLD OF MY SIDEARM, I BENT DOWN, HELPING UP MCPHERSON, WHO BY NOW HAD COMPOSED HIMSELF ENOUGH TO GET IT TOGETHER.  WE STEPPED OUTSIDE THE DOOR-AND INTO A WAR ZONE.

IN THE HALL WERE THREE BODIES, MUTILATED AND HALF-EATEN, EYES OPEN WIDE, STARING EMPTILY BACK AT ME.  MCPHERSON BEGAN TO TREMBLE ONCE MORE, SEEING THE CARNAGE. “NO.. NO..” HE BEGAN TO MURMUR UNSTEADILY.

“MCPHERSON.” I CALMLY BEGAN “WE HAVE TO KEEP MOVING, WE HAVE TO MOVE OR WE WILL END UP JUST LIKE THEM. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME, MCPHERSON? DO YOU UNDER-“

THE LIGHTS DIED JUST THEN.  PITCH BLACK, NOT EVEN THE HUM OF THE SHIP RUNNING.  FROM SOMEWHERE-EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE-SCRAPING SOUNDS AND DISTANT MUFFLED SCREAMS COULD BE HEARD.

MCPHERSON SNAPPED.  AS THE EMERGENCY LIGHTS KICKED ON, EMITTING THEIR DIM BLUE ILLUMINATION, HE BEGAN TO FRANTICALLY SCREAM, SHAKING AWAY FROM ME.  HE TURNED AND BEGAN TO SPRINT AWAY FROM ME.

THAT’S WHEN IT GOT HIM.

A FORM OF SOMETHING-SOMETHING BIPEDAL AND HUMAN IN NAME ONLY-SPRANG FROM ONE OF THE SIDE DOORS AND WAS UPON MCPHERSON.  I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF SOMETHING SHINY GLITTERING IN ITS HAND. IT MOVED FAST, FASTER THAN ANY PERSON I’VE EVER SEEN MOVE.  THE HAND HOLDING THE SHINY OBJECT WEAVED BLINDLY THROUGH THE AIR, ATTACKING MCPHERSON, SENDING DARK DROPLETS EVERYWHERE, SPATTEING ON THE WALLS AND THE FLOOR.  THE SOLDIER SCREAMED, FRANTICALLY WAVING HIS HANDS TO PROTECT HIM, BUT NOT FOR LONG.  NOT MORE THAN A SPLIT SECOND LATER, THE DARK FORM LEAPT UPON HIM. I CAUGHT A LOOK OF HOLLOW EYES AND AN OPEN, BLOODY MOUTH, WITH TATTERED RIBBONS OF SOMETHING BETWEEN THE TEETH AS THE HEAD BURROWED ITSELF INTO MCPHERSON’S NECK.  THE TWO BODIES COLLAPSED TOGETHER TO THE FLOOR.  I AIMED, FIRED ONCE, TWICE, BEFORE SEEING TWO MORE FORMS IN THE DIM LIGHT COME FROM THE SAME OPEN DOORWAY. TWO PAIRS OF EYES-UNDEAD, HUNGRY EYES-LOOKED THROUGH ME.  LOOKED TO STEAL MY SOUL.

FEAR AND PANIC STRUCK ME TOGETHER. I RAN, RAN AS FAST AS I COULD, SHOOTING BLINDLY BEHIND ME, HOPING THAT I WAS KILLING THE BEASTS.  BUT I COULDN’T LOOK.  FEAR WOULD NOT ALLOW ME.

I MADE IT TO THE STAIRCASE LEADING TO THE BRIDGE. THE REAVERS HADN’T MADE IT THIS FAR YET.  BUT IT WAS JUST A MATTER OF TIME UNTIL THEY DID.  THEY HAD ENGINEERING; THEY HAD THE HANGAR BAY.  WHAT ELSE DID THEY HAVE?

I’VE LOST MY SHIP.

I HEAR THEM.  THEY’RE SCRATCHING THE DOOR, SCREAMING.  I WISH THEY WOULD STOP THAT MADDENING SCREAMING!!

THE BUOY IS TRANSMITTING NOW, BUT IT WILL PROBABLY BE TOO LATE FOR US.  IF ANYONE GETS THIS, STAY AWAY FROM THE I.A.V. MUQALI.  TAKE THIS LOG AND IMMEDIATELY DELIVER IT TO AN ALLIANCE OUTPOST OR ANOTHER ALLIANCE CRUISER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WE HAVE FOURTEEN BULLETS LEFT.  SEVEN ARE BEING SET ASIDE FOR OURSELVES.  WE WILL NOT DIE LIKE THE OTHERS.  THE OTHER SEVEN WERE TAKEN BY ENSIGN MORENO, OUR BEST MARKSMAN.  HE’LL PICK THEM OFF AS THEY COME IN IF THEY MAKE IT IN.

POSTHUMOUS COMMENDATIONS ARE RECOMMENDED FOR EVERY MEMBER OF THIS CREW.

I APOLOGIZE TO.. TO THE ALLIANCE COMMAND.. FOR THIS INCIDENT AND TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILTY.

THIS IS CAPTAIN HO JUN FAN, SIGNING OFF.

***END TRANSMISSION***

CURRENT POSITION OF I.A.V. MUQALI: UNKNOWN

STATUS OF SHIP’S CREW: UNKNOWN (PRESUMED DEAD)

STATUS OF VERIFICATION OF EVENTS AS RELATED BY CAPTAIN’S LOG: CANNOT BE VERIFIED AT THIS TIME

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