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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Epic Space Opera: Outsystem by @soyarma (excerpt)


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Outsystem

An Aeon 14 Novel (Volume 1)

By Michael Cooper



Synopsis


Someone is out to stop the GSS Intrepid, an interstellar colony ship, from being completed on schedule and beginning its journey to 82 Eridani. When anti-colonial activist groups are suspected, Major Tanis Richards, an officer in the field of military intelligence and counterinsurgency, is brought onboard to hunt them down.

A public disgrace Tanis suffered at the hands of the military has motivated her to leave Sol and start a new life elsewhere. She soon discerns that more than simple activist groups are arrayed against the ship and its crew. There are corporations and governments that have a vested interest in ensuring that the Intrepid never leaves the Sol system.

Tanis tightens security and fights political red tape while running up against assassins and mercenaries sent to the stop her and the Intrepid at every turn. The new friends and relationships she forges strengthen her resolve to protect the ship and keep its crew and colonists safe as they endeavor to head outsystem.

Excerpt


An announcement came over the shipnet indicating a successful docking. The passengers were reminded to remain in their cabins until the debarkation signal was given.

Shortly afterward, the low thud of the passenger and cargo umbilicals linking the Dawn to the station could be felt through the ship. Fresh air from the MOS filtered through the vents. Tanis could practically taste the difference after the stale stuff the Dawn had been recycling over the last few days.

The debarkation signal came over the shipnet and a glowing green icon flashed on the door’s holo display indicating that passengers could leave their cabins. Tanis took her time giving the sparse space a final check, making certain nothing was left behind. It would give the corridors a chance to clear out. No point in rushing into a crowd of people.

The sounds of other passengers outside her cabin had ceased and Tanis had just stepped into the corridor when another tremor shook the ship. It was followed by the roar of an explosion flooding the hall, forcing Tanis to grasp the doorframe to maintain her footing. A moment of stillness followed and then alarms began to blare. Tanis set her auditory systems to filter them out, only to have the telltale whack of pulse rifles and the chip of beam weapons fill the silence.

In a single swift motion she dropped her duffle and pulled her pulse pistol from its holster. She couldn’t imagine who the hell would use beam weapons on a ship. One shot in the wrong place and it would disrupt the electrostatic shields and cause explosive decompression.

The sound of high-pitched whines and supersonic booms joined the other weapons fire. Even better, Tanis thought, some idiot was using a railgun!

<Some idiot has a death wish,> Angela commented.

<Except they’re wishing for our deaths,> Tanis replied as she bent to a knee and pulled her lightwand from the duffle.

Angela was attempting to query the shipnet to determine what was going on. <It’s at the dock. Someone blew two of the umbilicals and started firing on passengers as they debarked.>

<That’s going to be a massacre! Have they boarded the ship?> Tanis asked.

<Hard to say, with sensors are jammed in that sector, I’m guessing someone is hiding something... so yes.>

<Your guesses are usually right.>

Angela’s reply was smug. <Of course they are.>

<Can you raise the captain?>

<Shipnet is sporadic, looks like it’s under some viral attack.>

<An all-out assault? This is more than some robbery.>

<Your guess is as good as mine,> Angela responded.

Tanis took a deep breath and altered her thinking patterns for combat. Any concern and worry left her as the calm born from being in more firefights than she could remember took over. Controlled and cool, no emotion. Feelings got you killed.

<I’ve reached the ship’s AI on an auxiliary band. We’ll handle the net battle, you find whoever’s turning this ship into a screen door.>

<A screen door?> Tanis didn’t get the analogy.

<Full of holes.> Angela replied.

<Did I ever mention humor is not your strong suit?>

Starting down the corridor toward the remaining umbilical, Tanis listened for the sounds of weapons fire. Most were distant, but the odd snap sounded nearby. She was nearing the fore end of the hall when the deck plate shook with another explosion, this one further aft, closer to the engines.

<Are they—?> she asked her AI.

<It would seem so. If they blow the Dawn’s engines they’ll make a pretty big boom. There’s a D2 fueling station about a half klick away. That would go up for sure and it could take out the Intrepid.> Angela’s thoughts were clipped. Tanis could tell the net fight against the viral attack must be consuming much of her attention.

<So you’re saying we can’t let that happen.>

<I think that goes without saying.>

Tanis ignored the jibe. <Have you been able to make contact with anyone? We need to get the word out.>

<Still just the ship’s AI, who is barely able to form a sentence right now. I’ve got to concentrate on this attack. You stop them from blowing the engines.>

The engines were in the other direction and Tanis pulled up the ship’s layout on her HUD, determining the best route aft. If she cut through the galley she could get to the engineering section via service areas and avoid the section closer to the boarding hatch and destroyed umbilicals.

Tanis turned, moving back down the corridor. After a hundred meters it ended in a three-way intersection. She eased around the corner, checking for hostiles when the deck shuddered beneath her feet. Her footing slipped and her head jerked out into the intersection, fully exposed.

“Hey! Stop!” The call came from her left.

Tanis berated herself for not deploying nanoprobes to scout ahead. Normally Angela covered that, but with her AI battling the virus that was trying to take control of the ship it was up to Tanis to manage the nanoprobes.

She spared a glance at the man who had called out before pulling her head back. He stood just over twenty meters away, raising his rifle to fire.

“Whatever happened to letting me halt?” Tanis muttered as she pulled back out of sight. She pressed herself against the bulkhead as two bursts of energy lanced through the space where her head had been moments before. Two black patches of melted plas steamed across the corridor from her, making certain she knew just how close the brush with death had been.

The shots were followed by a string of curses and the pounding of heavy boots. A quick listen told her he was running at full speed. When he had to be within three meters of the junction she crouched and launched herself across the intersection, firing her pulse pistol at him.



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