Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1) (2 page)

BOOK: Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1)
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“Wilks, take a look at this ship. Ever seen anything like it?” Tamara’s knowledge of ship design and space flight history reached far into the super annoying.

“WHOA! Look at that! It punched right through the hull! Do you know how much force it takes t—?”

“Wilks!” Trigger said, reining her in a little. “Physics lesson later, okay? What about the design?”

“Right, right, sorry Trigger.” She looked out the window again. “Ahhh…No way, Cap. That’s not a design from any of the systems I know of.”

The idea that an actual alien vessel was here in this system and right in front of them and the fact that it had just ripped into a superliner with apparent ease, settled over them like a damp chill. Only five non-Human races were ever discovered after quantum jumping opened up the galaxy. Humankind learned early never to go into those areas of space again.

Boss kept the
Altered Moon
hidden to avoid the risk of being destroyed as well. All was quiet for a short time before the attackers broke away from the
Istraulis
and began to veer off. Their inner system engines powered up to open the distance from the disabled superliner. A quantum jump interface began to form in front of the ship as the attackers launched three slow-moving missiles that slammed into the side of the liner.

Parts of the
Istraulis
seemed to just rot away as explosions cascaded through the luxury vessel and caused heavy damage. Passenger life pods began to eject out of the liner from several areas. The multiple explosions merged together as the luxury liner was both consumed and blown apart by a fireball from within the ship. Four life pods escaped from the ship before the blast, but they were hurled off into space. The fire dissipated silently as pieces of framing and hull plating spun away, trailing streams of sparks and plasma fire.

“Crew, this is the captain. We’re giving up the game. Prepare for immediate departure and stand by,” Boss called into the comms. “Trigger, any sign that we’ve been picked up?”

“Negative, Captain. The marauder jumped away just as the missiles hit the liner.”

There was silence on the bridge of
the Altered Moon
as the chilling reality settled over them that over one hundred thousand crewmembers and passengers had just died in the few seconds that it took
the Istraulis
to blast apart and disintegrate.

“G, power up the main drive and move us out of the asteroid field. Trigger, scan for any life pods. Wilks, back to engineering and make sure my ship is ready for anything,” ordered Boss.

“Aye, Captain,” said Gina.

“You got it, Boss” said Wilks, who was already halfway out the hatch.

Status indicators, power gauges, and readout screens all came to life with flashes and beeps as the
Altered Moon’
s systems began to power up.

“Powering down the DMITS and engaging the main drive,” Gina said, as she moved the
Moon
out of the Glimmerocks and away from the still-expanding debris field.

Garavel Gribbons stepped onto the bridge and over to the nav console. “Game gear is secured, Captain. What the hell happened out there?”

“Three high-order detonations and adios
Istraulis
,” said JP.

“Sensors are picking up four life pods, Captain, but I read only one life sign,” said Trigger. “Position is twenty-seven degrees by one-thirty-five spinning away at one hundred-eighty-two kph. Life pod is venting atmosphere. Readings indicate less than one hour of life support and dropping. MT&T search and rescue will never get here in time.”

“Damn!” Boss exclaimed after a short silence.

“Boss”—Trigger turned from his screens to look at the captain—“we should go. We should leave right now and let that pod just drift away. We don’t even know who’s in there. It could be MT&T personnel. How would we explain the fact that we were close enough to the
Istraulis
when she blew to mount an immediate rescue?”

“Triggers right, Cap’n,” said Gar. “Those Imperial bastards will throw us in the clink just for being out here in the commercial lanes.”

“Ahh…shit,” Boss said with a heavy sigh.
Can I turn away and leave someone to die?
No
, was his answer. “G, my love, intercept that life pod.”

*~*~*

Chapter Two

The captain and crew of the MSL
Istraulis
had their hands full with the preparations in order to get the ship ready for the Gems of the Galaxy Tour. Personnel with supplies hurried off in a hundred different directions, while a hundred different crewmembers were busy going over a hundred different checklists. The Gems Tour was the biggest tour package of its kind, with five high-profile sites in eight weeks. The
Istraulis
would stop at the five “Gems of the Galaxy,” which included the Qune Star Cluster, the Campton Stellar Nursery, the Cat’s Paw Nebula, the Glimmerocks asteroid field, and the Shining Sisters, twin binary star systems orbiting each other. Muster for the support crew was under way at the aft loading dock of the MSL
Istraulis
.

“Evermore, CJ Evermore,” said a young man who had finally made it to the front of the line of the crew muster for the engineering department.

“Step up to the console for identification, crewman,” said the MT&T security officer at the crew boarding station.

The young man stepped up to the ID console, placed his right hand on a hand-shaped module, and put his right eye up to a cupped lens. The module scanned the handprint and took a pinprick blood sample, while the lens took a scan of the retina pattern of his eye. The data was compared to what was on the MT&T security files for an identity match. If the data matched up, the crewmember was cleared to board the ship.

“Evermore, CJ, Engineer’s Third Mate, employee number eight-six-four-eight-two…your access badge clears you for engineering and crew decks only. Report to the Officer of the Watch, on deck fifty-two for bunk assignment and duty schedule,” the security officer said, already turned to the next person in line. “Step up for identification, crewman.”

“Yes, sir!” CJ called out. He came to attention and snapped a crisp salute. It was a very respectful gesture, except for the slight tone of mockery, which earned him a return glare from the officer and the focus of several of the other guards.

CJ just backed up, gave a short wave and the ‘oops…sorry’ facial expression, until he could slip around the corner and out of sight.
Shitheads
he thought to himself.
Okay, here we go. Deck fifty-two, wherever that is.
He followed the flow of obvious newbies until they all came to an intersection of walkways and transtubes.
Ah, a map,
he thought and counted off the number of decks.
Let’s see, deck fifty-two…where are we…twenty…thirty…forty…fifty…

“Aww, crap…I’m on the bottom deck?” he said out loud. “They’re gonna have me scrubbing sensor leads and purging waste bins. Great!”

“Yeah, I know…me too. That smooth-talking recruiter didn’t mention a thing about not being able to
see
the great cruise that I was going to be along for,
because
there are
no view ports
on the engineering decks!” said a woman who stood next to him. “Hi. I’m Katy…Katy Latimer.” She offered her hand in greeting. “Or should I say: ‘Latimer, Katherine , Engineer’s Third Mate, employee number so and so...’” she made a mock stern security face as she said it. “I saw how well you got along with our friends from security back there at the check-in.”

CJ looked over to see a shapely woman dressed in an MT&T engineering uniform with a third mate insignia at the left shoulder. She was about a hundred-fifty-five cm tall, fifty-eight kilograms or so, with brown eyes and dark blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail.

“Well hello, Katy…it’s a pleasure. I’m CJ Evermore, but my friends call me ‘Seedge.’” He took her hand and gave it a warm shake. “Yeah, those Imperial Ironpants, they have noooo sense of humor at all. Good thing though, I guess you wouldn’t want a security goon laughing and cracking jokes as he’s bustin’ on ya. That would just be rude.” He gave a little head nod and eyebrow lift to emphasize his point.

“Yes it would, CJ Evermore. Yes it would indeed.” She laughed and locked eyes with him for a moment.

“So,
deck fifty-two,
here we come. Can I carry anything for you?” he asked.

“Thanks, Seedge, but not a chance.” She waved off his assistance and shouldered her flight bag. “This crew member carries her own weight. Come on. Transtube nine is just around the corner and that will take us down to fifty-two.”

Mmm…she’s cute...in a sassy kinda way

the uniform fits well too
… He followed her down the corridor.

They stepped into transtube nine. CJ tapped the deck fifty-two indicator. The crew-level transtube bustled with personnel, equipment, and supplies that went from one place to another. By the time they passed deck forty-five, the traffic had dropped to a crawl. At deck fifty, they saw no one else at all. The transtube stopped at deck fifty-two and the door slid open to reveal a deserted, semi-lit corridor that stretched into the distance. Sounds of dripping liquids and venting gases could be heard in the distance from various unseen places.

“Huh…cheery kinda place isn’t it?” asked CJ.

“Yeah it is. Straight outta Brigs & Dungeons E-gazine,” she replied sarcastically and they both laughed.

“The Officer of the Watch will most likely be in operations. The deck map shows it down the corridor to the left. We should check in there,” said CJ, as he stepped out of the transtube.

They went down the left corridor and saw the operations office immediately to the right. CJ grabbed the locking wheel and spun it counterclockwise to open the pressure door. Four people, gathered around a central operations console, stopped their discussion and looked up as Katy and CJ stepped into the room.

“Engineer’s Mates Katy Latimer and CJ Evermore reporting for duty, sir. We’re looking for the Officer of the Watch,” Katy said.

“I’m Petty Officer Walt Stevens, Officer of the Watch for first rotation,” said one of the men as he walked up. “This is Engineer’s First Mate Mike Rawly and Third Mates Missy James and Paul Conelly.” Nods and hellos went around the group.

“Tap your ID cards on the roster screen and we’ll pull up your billet and duty assignments,” Mike Rawly indicated the screen on the end of the main operations desk.

“Here we are, Katherine Latimer, CJ Evermore, both in crew billet fifty-two-c, assigned to third rotation,” Mike read from the crew report. “Okay, to get to the billet, you go left out of operations, go down to the next intersection, take another left, and that will lead you straight to fifty-two-c common room. Pick any open bunk and stow your gear. Take some time and get to know the layout. Mandatory orientation meeting for third rotation is at fourteen hundred hours in the forward prep room. Officer of the Third Watch is Petty Officer Carlton Stern. Report to him in the prep room before your orientation. Got all that?”

“Oh, yeah…clear as a bell. Take two lefts and a nap, right?” teased CJ.

“Great, a smart-ass. Carlton’s gonna love you. Ha haa,” joked Walt Stevens.

“Thank you, gentlemen and lady, for your help. It was a pleasure to meet you all,” said Katy, as she gathered up her gear. “We’ll see ya around the ship.”

Katy and CJ took the left at the intersection. They saw a room with a table and billet stations a ways down the corridor. The unmistakable ‘glow any time’ green-of-life pod hatches lined the corridor, five on each side. The look of the peeled paint and corroded metal created a shadow of doubt about whether the pod would even launch. The
Istraulis
may have been a superliner on the outside, but inside she was just another tub that needed her bilge scrubbed.

“Well, we made it. Home, Space, Home,” CJ joked, as they entered the fifty-two-c crew common room.

A round table with ten chairs sat in the middle of an octagonal room. Five billet stations with two bunks and lockers each lined the walls, along with four unisex heads, and a personnel station. All the billet stations were unlocked, which meant they were the first, and maybe the only ones to arrive for third rotation engineering duty.

“It gives a whole new meaning to ‘Be it ever so humble,’” scoffed Katy.

“No joke there. I didn’t think a ship this big could even have a room this small.” CJ threw his bag on a bed and studied the ship layout diagram mounted on the wall.

“Ha, right! It’s almost zero-nine-thirty. That gives us four and a half hours to orientation, and then third rotation starts at eighteen hundred hours. That’s gonna end up being a long first day. I’m gonna get some rack time so I’m not dead on my feet by the end of the shift.”

“Righty then, Miss Katy, off to bed with ya,” said CJ. “As for myself, I sense mischief aboard this vessel and I’m just the one to get into it.”

“Well don’t bring it back with you. I want to start this job off
without
a bang, thank you,” she replied.

*~*~*

BOOK: Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1)
8.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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