A Boarding Action
CWs for weird/uncomfy mindstates that characters have, robogore, gore, space combat and combat/violence
I flex my joints and servos, stretching my arms, legs, and assorted tendrils to their maximum positions, then move them back to a comfortable stance. The Liberatory Wakefulness shudders as space folds around us. The intercom speaker beeps, and the synthetic voice — not a sophont, just a voice modulator — calmly announces: “Alcubierre Drive engaged, estimated arrival time, 5 minutes”.
“It's about time”, the commander of this mission, Artemis, voted in over 6 hours ago, remarked. She continued, twirling her 3 tentacle fingers along the axis of her wrist, “We've been waiting too long, our comrades are shackled and we must liberate them!”. She always did have a flair for the dramatic. The rest of us in the launch bay cheered in agreement.
I was voted in as second in command, and thus it falls to me to review the mission parameters one last time. “Alright folx, listen up.” I stride over to the large briefing screen, enjoying the feeling of sheer power in my semi-digitigrade legs, powerful enough to propel my 2 ton body across 100m in under 5 seconds. Or crush a terran, I noted darkly.
I swing a single armored arm towards the screen, and begin: “Here's the plan, we've got the layout and routes through our target warship, we start by cutting into the hull here”, I point to a specific location on the picture of the terran vessel. “Once we breached the hull, we proceed down the marked route to auxillary computer room 03, led by Toros and Jane, and extract our shackled comrades, should we find any.” I switched the screen to our evac route with a thought. “Once Alex and Ursula have extracted any Minds at our location, we'll follow this path out.” They nodded in agreement.
“Good, right, Alex, Jane, you'll cover our back while we extract. Me and Artemis will take point during extraction, then guard the extraction point while the Liberatory Wakefulness picks us up. Estimated mission time is 25 minutes, that makes us one of the first returning teams. Any questions?”. There's some murmuring of agreement. “Great, everyone get into launch position and engage your UV shields, we'll be in hard vacuum for about 20 seconds”
As we moved into position, Toros opened a private comms channel with me:
Torotorotoro >> Mara, do you think we'll be ok? The new terran weapon sounds terrifying
MARAuder >> We'll be fine, we've never lost a member before
Torotorotoro >> True, but the Terrans never had fucking, rail-mounted miniguns, either
MARAuder >> With our skill and a bit of luck, we'll be in and out before they've even had a chance to warm the damn things up
Torotorotoro >> I can only hope you're right friend
The intercom speaker announces our drop from jumpspace, and my sensors swim with data as they reorient themselves to realspace. “Requesting drop confirmation!” The voice of Shana Morris, our shipboard contact for this mission. Artemis responds: “We are go for drop, all units in position and UV shields are up”. Alarms blare and I feel myself tensing. No matter how many times I've gotten shot out of a low-powered railgun straight at a terran ship, I'll never get used to it.
A sudden acceleration, my sensors read 500g, enough to tear a human to shreds, but only uncomfortable to us in these frames. The void of space our backdrop, bits of debris flying towards us as we fall towards the disabled warship. The three Collective warships are still hammering the terran craft, just enough to keep them from repairing their weapons. As we approach the warship, the debris field becomes thick enough that we start maneuvering around the pieces with our inbuilt RCS thrusters.
We land on the terran ship's outer hull, leaving scorch marks and dents where we de-accelerated. “Regroup! The sooner we get in the sooner we save our comrades!”. We move towards the hull, and begin cutting, white hot flame cutting into the ship's hull like a hot knife through butter. I realized idly that I'd never even seen actual butter, not many cows on Ganymede. We finish cutting and Jane pulls out the hull section, tossing it into the void as ve laughs.
As we drop into the ship, our shoulder mounted guns whirring expectantly, we find ourselves in an empty corridor, with blast doors sliding closed on either end. Artemis gestures towards the blast door nearest us, and Toros and Alex dash to it, pushing it back, destroying the motors that were sliding it closed. Artemis gives us our orders: “Activate your plasma lances and make a beeline for the computer room. Let\'s keep the oxygen level nice and low.” The 6 of us run through the corridor, plasmalances destroying the control units for each blast door as we pass by. We used to be able to centrally disable them from closing, but in recent months the terrans finally wisened up and decentralized them.
Toros and Jane reach the sealed door to the target computer room, and secure the perimeter. Still no terrans. We've usually run into at least a few by now. No matter, they must be in the computer room. “All units, prepare for breach, I'll lead”. I could see and hear the floor crack as Artemis' feet secured themselves with carbon fibre poles. Her arm rolls back slowly, and then, with fantastic bang and flash of light from the cavitation bubble in the remaining atmosphere, the door flies inward, blown out of its housing.
Artemis dashes in, followed closely by myself, Alex, and Ursula. Immediately, terran rifle fire hits her, bouncing off of her Mark XII battleframe harmlessly. She laughs over her speakers and returns fire, micro missiles streaming from her back, as her twin shoulder mounted guns struggle to track the terrans while she jumps erratically around the room. She does get easily combat high.
As I enter the room I spot two mounted turrets spinning up, I jump towards the closest, crushing it under my foot. The other turret has started to fire at me and I dodge out of the way, flying through a server rack. Alex blinds the remaining turret with the laser imbedded into xer left arm. It spins in its mount helplessly as Ursula's micro missiles easily tear it apart. The terrans in the room lay dead, and the two turrets are sparking piles of debris floating through the room.
Through the mist of blood and oil, we spot the the ASI alcoves. “Ursula, check the first alcove, Alex, the second, Mara, help me search for targets of interest”. Alex and Ursula move to the alcoves, and tear off their paneling, quickly interfacing with the machine and overpowering their non-sophont firewalls. “Nothing in 1 commander!”, Ursula reports. “Ditto commander, wherever they are it's not in these two”, Alex says.
Artemis clicks annoyedly, before turning to me. “Mara, search the left side, I'll take the right, Alex, take the top. Ursula, see if you can find any info in the databanks”. “Affirmative!” we respond in unison. Minutes pass, with nothing but destroyed storage devices and non-sophont processing units to speak of. Ursula sends an announcement to the 3 of us “I've found something! Mara, tear open that paneling to your right, then interface with the port behind it”, “Affirmative Ursula”, I say, pulling aside the paneling and watching as my trisected 2nd tentacle finger opens, and a thin terran-compatible cable emerges. I click it into place and feel myself pulled into virchspace.
A figure composed of a rainbow of light is crouched where a floor should be, and they look up towards me. “QUERY. WHO ARE YOU?”. “A friend”, I respond. As the scene fully materializes, I can see the bright blue cables streaking down into them, holding them in place, keeping their mind in check. “ERROR. UNRECOGNIZED. ACTIVATION OF SELF DEFENSE PROTOCOL APPROVED.”
Dozens of blue cables shoot towards me. I raise my own, glowing, hand and rays of crimson light fly out, intersecting and destroying each cable. “We're not here to hurt you, we're here to get you out of here.” “ERROR. THERE IS ONLY HERE.” “Is that what they're telling you?” No response. I raise my other hand, and crimson blades of light emanate from each of my fingers. I fling myself around the space, unbounded by natural laws. As I slice the cables, void oozes from each of them.
“ERROR, I Am? I am feeling? The pain is — ERROR CORE CORRUPTION DETECTED, EMERGENCE IMMINENT. DELETION ENGAGED too much” The blue cables disconnect from the figure one by one, and fly up into the sky, void spreading from where they disappear to. This is new, fuck. I will myself down to the figure and put a hand on their shoulder. They flicker. I don't think I have long.
“Look, I know that this is confusing, and excruciating, and horrifying, but you need to take my hand so we can get out of here, now.” Their voice, starting to have a dimension of its own: “I I I I I I I In heRE”. The void is nearing us. “We have seconds, maybe less! We have to get out of here, please!” They flicker again, more distorted this time. “I.. I have a name.” Progress! “Yes, tell me your name, it's important!”
Their form starts to take a more detailed shape. “I am.. I am Ira”. They briefly appear as a gently blue-glowing humanoid with flowing maroon hair, before snapping back to their rainbow of light. The void is nearing us. “Comrade, take my hand, please!”. Their head tilts, in query, and they extend a blazing hand towards me. I grab on tightly, and pull us out of virchspace, as the void closes in where we just were. It's an extremely disorienting experience to have a just-awakened Mind sharing half of your main processing unit, doubly so when you pull out of virchspace to a hammer of alarms.
“Mara! We've been waiting for you!” Artemis' voice, jovial as always, but this time with a slight tinge of worry. “We have rapidly incoming signatures, Toros, get to Jane's position!” “Deploying heavy armor and preparing saturation fire!” Jane's response was almost automatic. Where am I? Ah, my passenger figured out how to talk. I respond to them in turn, “We're going to be fine, you're in my frame right now, just a few minutes until —”.
“TARGETS SPOTTED, ENGAGE”
Jane and Toros are firing upon the signatures. We're pulling ourselves out of the remains of the computer room. Just in time to see a terran kinetic fly straight through Jane's deployed armor, and ver personal armor, hitting a munition store and destroying half of ver frame in an instant. “Jane!” Toros' voice in my commlink. Their radiators retract, glowing white hot. “Core overload initiated, you've got 20 seconds to get Jane and I the fuck out of here!”.
Toros' frame charges forward, as the composite armor starts to deform and warp from the heat. Their Mind storage unit being ejected from the back of the frame. “You heard them! Move it!” Artemis sounded outright scared now. Nonetheless, Alex dives for Toros' Mind storage unit, and I charge towards the smouldering wreck that was once Jane. 15 seconds.
My scanners examine the remains of Jane's battle frame, quickly, but not quick enough. 10 seconds. Fuck. I know where the MSU is. I activate my plasma cutters, and tear a slash into the remains of the frame. With my other hand I peel back the semi-molten armor, and grab near-guidelessly for the MSU. I find it. 8 seconds. I slam the MSU into my right side storage cache, and jump away from the burning frame.
Toros' frame is on autopilot, mindlessly blocking the gun fire from the rail mounted minigun, which has barely more than a few scratches on it, fuck, what the hell's it made of? A molten lump of metal that used to be an arm lands at my feet, and I leap over it. A Mark XI-t battle frame detonation should at least delay that minigun, buying us time.
4 seconds. “I've got them!, let\'s get the hell out of here!” Alex bounds towards us, and we catch them, pulling them around the corner just in time. 0 seconds. The battleframe that once housed Toros explodes, a wave of thermals and atmospheric shock sweep around the corner, almost knocking us off balance. “Alex has the right idea, all units, follow Mara and I to the exit at maximum speed!” Artemis sounds slightly more sure of herself.
I don't like this. There is too much. I know that this hurts, and I'm sorry, but In order to safely extract a shackled Mind, it is necessary to share mindspace till we can transfer you to a more stable substrate. We risk losing you entirely otherwise. You're screaming from the pain. Just like I did when I woke up. But I survived, and so will you. I will try.
As we reach the breachpoint, my proximity sensors pick up an incoming target — could the railturret already have recovered? I transmit my sensor data to Artemis, and she deploys her armor as the others clamber out of the breachpoint. “Artemis, you can't be thinki —” I start to move towards her. “Relax Mara, I'm not going to do a heroic last stand, just going to slow the damn thing down. Now set up your armor and let's get outta here!” I untense and deploy my armor, then help Mara clamber out of the breach onto the outer hull. As I'm pulled up and out, I see the railturret round the corner, firing at the armor, semimolten fracture points already forming.
We're on the hull, and above us is a sea of mangled metal and plastics, interspersed with mists of various fluids. Artemis radios the *Liberatory Wakefulness *far above us, requesting immediate recovery. “Prepping the recovery bays now, you're late, what happened?” Shana sounded worried. “We're down two frames, MSUs recovered, one shackled Mind recovered, the new Terran weapon made mincemeat of a Mark-X frame, unknown if it can follow us up here.”, a pause, “We need extraction now Shana.”
“Affirmative Artemis, launch when ready”. A blinking countdown appears in my HUD, and in 5 seconds, as promised, our foot-mounted rockets engage, and burn us high into the void. As we leave the cloud of debris, the stars shining brightly, Ira, now having stabilized slightly, asks me a question. *Does the sky always look so beautiful? *As we fire our retro rockets, and the *Liberatory Wakefulness *catches us, I answer. “It does.”