The Wreck of the Hyperion
The Wreck of the Hyperion
Dated one week after events in A New Empire in the Making.
"Is this it, mom?" Zach Jr. asked as the three came up to the main boarding platform.
Senator Eliza Foxx looked at the boarding passes and noted the berth number. "Yes, Berth 6a. S.S. Hyperion. Let's get aboard and get you settled before the ship leaves. Well be home in a couple of days."
"I can't wait to see Dad and GV again, Mom." Jessi said as they walked on board the luxurious starliner.
Eliza smiled. "It's only been two weeks, kiddo. It's not like you were away for a year or more."
"I know, but I don't like being away from everybody any more. I like being at home now."
Eliza shrugged and smiled. They looked around at the expanse of the starliner's main promenade.
"Wow, this place is boss." Zach Jr. said as they looked at the thick carpets, luxurious chairs, and impressive artworks that made it look more like a six star hotel than a spaceship.
"Let's go find our rooms; deck three, section four, cabins eleven a and b." Eliza said and they set off to find their cabin, quickly vanishing into the growing crowd of passengers returning to Earth from Andor.
Senator Eric Wheiner briskly walked on board the Hyperion some time later, his cape flowing behind him regally. He was successfully hiding his nervousness at being off Earth, but wished to be back as soon as possible, after he'd fixed BETA so the organisation would collapse. This ship would be a good reason. He checked his chrono, six hours, then the fun would start. He headed for his cabin.
A number of VIP's boarded the Hyperion over the next hour, mostly from Andor Kierwyn, and New Gherka. All headed for an important League metting on Earth in a week. Among them were a number of ambassadors and premiers from Earth itself, along with high-level diplomats from a number of colonies and outlying planets. All in all, a good mix of VIP's. A noticible presence was also on the ship from BETA, with a large contingent of rangers always visible whereever one looked. Excellent security against any trouble that could be brought to bear on the starliner.
"Niko, the ship won't leave port for another hour, come on, let me go back - there was this little circuit tester that Cueball would just love-"
"No Doc! We have to be on board an hour before departure. We're out of time." Niko said, dragging a feebly resisting Doc Hartford behind her as she walked towards the platform leading to the Hyperion.
"Oh all right, I suppose Cueball will have to be satisfied with the Series V rock-muncher I got him. It should take care of all his disposables readily enough."
"Doc you are impossible. And to think, a century ago they used to say women were the ones who always wanted to shop until they dropped from exhaustion."
Doc shrugged. "What can I say, always a trendsetter."
They walked on board and were met by Lieutenant Alverez, in charge of the ship's security.
"Ranger Niko, Ranger Hartford. Good to see the both of you." She said, saluting them both.
"Lieutenant, how's the ship?" Doc asked.
Alverez looked around, then back to the two Rangers. "All secured, and ready to ull out. We're still awaiting two ambassadors from Kierwyn, but have been told not to delay the launch. If they show, then they show. But when we go, this ship will fly."
"Good. Are the passengers secure?" Niko asked.
Alverez nodded. "Everybody's snug as a bug in a rug, Ranger Niko. No problems expected or anticipated."
"Excellent. We'll see you once the ship is underway, Lieutenant. Keep us posted." Doc said.
Fifty-four minutes later, the Hyperion detached from it's mooring clamps and slowly pulled away from the orbital dock. Once in free space, it's main antimatter engines fired, and it began to acceleate to hyperdrive clearance speed.
"Nice ship." Doc said, not looking up from the speds he'd managed to wrestle from the ship's main computer. "This is the next model up from the Andorian Express, Niko. She's got more power, twice the passenger capacity, and half the crew. And still only the size of three dirtball fields."
Niko smiled. "It's football Doc. not Dirtball."
He shrugged. "I never liked the game, too dirty and violent for my liking. Give me a sword and a good fencing partner anyday."
Wheiner checked his chrono. Ten minutes until showtime. Time to get to his hideyhole so he could get off the shp before it vanished and BETA's continued existance went with it. He made his way to the lifepod deck.
Doc and Niko were talking with Alverez when they all noticed a slight change in the ship. The engine vibration was suddenly gone. Niko looked at Doc. "The engines have stopped." She said. Doc immediately pulled out the CDU and set it to wide scan. "Drive's are stopped, but the ship's still in hyperspace. We'd better get to the bridge, Niko. Find out what going on. If we stay like this for too long the wormhole will detatch from the endpoint at Earth and we could end up anywhere."
Alverez looked from one to the other. "What's happened?"
A sudden gunblast threw them all to the floor as a laser ripped a chunk of fabric froms curtain and set the entire setting ablaze.
"I think we just found out!" Doc replied as he pulled out his gun and squeezed off a shot at the armoured gunman standing by the main stairwell. Niko took the gun offered her from Alverez and also returned fire, while the lieutenant scrambled back to get to her security forces, embroiled in a firefight in another area.
"They're wearing armour. The guns aren't working!" Niko gasped as smoke filled the area from the burning fabric.
Doc looked at the emblazoned archway and ceiling. "We got to put out that fire, or we're all toast. Come on!"
He led Niko through the fire and they dodged random gunshots until they reached a maintenance corridor entry. Doc holstered his gun and tapped the access sequence. The door slid open and he pushed Niko through before hopping in after her and slamming the door shut behind him.
"We can't leave them, Doc!" She cried.
"Hey, we got to keep us alive, then we save everybody else, Niko. Now we are in a maintenance access corridor. There must be something wrong with the main computer otherwise the fire supression systems would already be active." He pulled out his CDU and tapped his badge. The CDU glowed and his programs flared to life. "Tripwire, Firefly, get in the system and give me a status report. Lifeline, activate the fire supression systems. Pathfinder, what happened to the main computer, find out for me fellas."
"Ayefirmative, Doc." the tweakers replied and they all faded into the metal framework of the corridor to perform their command functions.
"Now what?" NIko asked, unsure of what to do in this type of emergency.
"We go to the bridge, Niko. And find out what the situation really is. We've got to drop out of hyperdrive, or restart the engines before we get forever lost."
Niko looked up and down the corridor. "Bridge ... this way." She said and began walking briskly down the corridor. Doc shrugged and followed, one hand near his blaster, just in case.
Some minutes later, Pathfinder, Firefly and Tripwire reappeared and dropped back into the CDU. Doc looked at the data and frowned.
"What's up Doc?" Niko asked him.
"The main computer's destroyed. Pathfinder says it must have taken a direct hit from a laser cannon. There's nothing left. Tripwire says the engines have automatically shut down because of the computer failure. Pathfinder, Firefly, get back out here. Go to the hyperdrive engines and start them up again. Reverse the shunt so we drop out. We can't continue unguided."
"We'll do our best, Doc." the sprites said and faded into the metal corridor wall. Seconds later, Lifeline reappeared. "fire supression on and functional. I reguided all the command circuits so it's virtually uncontrollable, but it'll react to any form of heat with a burst of foam."
"Good little tweaker. Good work."
Niko signalled to him, and Doc hurried to catch up to her. "This door should open up just aft of the bridge." She said.
Doc pulled his gun and checked the charge. Ready?" He asked. Niko checked her own gun. "Ready." she replied and kicked the door open. Doc came flying out, gun at the ready, and nearly got blasted by Alverez and some of her security team. "Hold fire! They're ours!" Alverez cried, and her team resisted the urge to pull their triggers.
"Lieutenant, what's happened?"
"It's bad, Ranger Hartford. We got all the terrorists, but they've slagged the bridge, and part of engineering. We're flying blind and out of control."
The ship shudderred and they all felt the engines restart. "Go Pathfin der! Yeah Firefly!" Doc said.
"What?" Alverez asked even as they all felt the shift from hyperspace to normal space as a lurch in the pits of their stomachs.
Doc opened the door to the bridge, releasing peals of thick black smoke from the burning control consoles.
"Where's the captain?" He asked.
"Dead, along with most of the command crew. They were all killed when the terrorists threw grenades into the bridge and engineering. The poor bastards didn't stand a chance."
"We don't stand much of a chance either." Doc said.
Niko looked in, her eyes went wide, "Oh gods!"
Alverez looked in and saw the rapidly growing planet out the main viewport. "We have no control, and we're heading straight for it."
"Zachary, Gooseman, we have a Condition Gold. There is a starship down."
"Which ship, sir?" Captain Zachary Foxx asked.
"The Hyperion. I'm sorry, Zach."
Zach went white, and almost collapsed. "Eliza, Jessi, Zach."
Goose looked at his captain and friend, then back at the Commander.
"Where is the ship, sir?"
"In the empty zone, in space controlled by General Solis. Our last position had it on or very near the planet Opheron, in the Agurae system. We've already launched a high-speed probe to locate and send us some telemetry so we know what equiment to send. Until the probe gives us concrete information, there's no sense launching a rescue."
At that moment, an insistant beeping drew all their attention, Walsh pushed a button, and the screen flared to life with a feed from the probe as it emerged from hyperspace.
The plant expanded until it filled the screen, and a smaller window overlaid the main screen as the probe began scaning and locating the distress signal. Within a few minutes, the probe located and began to spiral down towards a tiny black speck on the aquamarine surface.
Zach was unconsciously clenching his fist as the probe dropped towards the shiny surface. As it drew closer, they could see slow undulations in the surface.
"It's a water world!" Doc cried.
The probe altered course and levelled off, flying over the surface at just below sonic speed. Within a few nail-biting minutes the probesloswed over a dark patch in the water's surface. A few bits of loose debris were drifting on the surface, and the overlay screen clearly showed the outline on the ship, completely submerged.
Walsh looked at the display. "The sensors show a hollow section inside the ship, that means there's still air. So there could be survivors."
"There have to be survivors." Zach stated.
Walsh tapped a button. "Dallas, get up here. We have a DSRV emergency.
A liner's gone down and is fully submerged."
"You got it, Commander." came the gruff reply from the Aquabay.
Zach looked at Walsh. "Why Dallas Buchannon, Commander? I'm perfectly capable of leading this mission. We don't need anybody else. Goose and I can get in there, get the survivors, and get out before anyone knows we were there."
"Zachary, you and Gooseman have never performed an underwater rescue mission. Dallas has done seventeen in his years with BETA and it's affiliates. He is the most experienced submariner alive today. I'm going to put him in command of the mission because he has the experience you lack in this unique situation."
"But Commander-" Zach stared.
"No buts, Captain!" Walsh thundered. "My decision is final."
A few minutes later, the door slid open and Dallas walked in. "Commander, Captain, Gooseman. What's the situation?"
"Condition Gold, Mr. Buchannon. A starliner has crashed on an ocean world and is totally submerged. At least a hundred fifty meters deep. The preliminary probe reports indicate survivor possibility. The problem is the plant is deep in Crown occupied space, and we don't know what their reaction will be to a BETA fleet flying to rescue league citizens."
"Damn their reaction, Commander. We have to get those people out as soon as possible." Dallas replied calmly.
"That's not all, Dallas." Walsh replied. "The ship was a newly commissioned Andorian starship. With the very latest Andorian Hyperdrive installed. No matter what, we cannot allow that drive system to remain in Crown Space."
Dallas looked askance at the Commander. "What are you not saying, Commander?"
Walsh took a deep breath. "If it is impossible to recover the starshuip, then the ship must be destroyed by fusion exposion to ensure the Andorian hyperdrive unit does not fall into non-league hands."
"How many passengers and crew on board the Hyperion?" Goose asked.
"Eight hundred sixty-three." Walsh replied.
Dallas studied the data feed still coming from the probe. "We got a new problem. Night is falling, and the water has a very low contaminent count. According to this readout, the planet has a sixty-eight hour rotation period, and is about as far as you can get from it's sun and still have liquid water. It'll be night over the crash site in five hours. The seas will begin to ice up fast, and by full night, seventeen hours later, the ice will be over a kilometer thick."
"There is no way the ship can withstand that sort of pressure on it's hull. It must already be buckling under normal water pressure." Walsh said.
"We don't have much time left, Commander. What equipment can I appropriate?" Dallas said, getting back to his feet.
"Whatever you need, Dallas. But remember, if the ship can't be salvaged, it must be destroyed totally." Walsh's last words echoed in the room as the door slid shut behind Dallas, already on the move to get what equipment and gear would be needed.
"Shane, Zachary. You two get to the charge chamber and power up. I'm already prepping Ranger-1. It'll be ready for launch when you get to the flight bay. Get going, and Zach-"
Zach paused at the door. "Dallas in in charge, Zach - you focus on getting Eliza and the kids out. Let Dallas worry about everyone else."
"General, this report just came in from the premimeter stations." One of his aides reported. General Solis glanced over and held out his hand. The aide dropped the infochit into his General's hand and stepped back, bowing deeply.
Solis glanced at the chit... League starship dropping out of hyperdrive, uncontrolled, crashing onto Opheron at killing velocity. Sensors then showed a League probe emerging and locating the ship, transmitting a steady stream of data back to Earth.
"You think anyone survived the crash?" He asked.
"Quite possible, my General. The ship was performing deceleration and speed-shedding maneuvers when it hit the surface water. And it hit the surface at enough of an angle to survive impact."
Solis stood up and looked at his aides. "Prepare a rescue mission. We must help our League companions, and I want that hull. It has a working Andorian Hyperdrive."
"Coming up on the crash site." Ensign Franke reported. "All ship systems stable, crown escorts holding steady."
"Keep it steady, once we reach the site we're going to have to keep this ship hovering for as long as it takes. There's no solid ground down there." Dallas advised, not looking at Zachary, who stood, stone-faced, watching the main viewscreen.
The Ranger Cruiser with Goose and the flying sub on board swooped around the bulk of the special transport and took up a position over the site, it's exhaust ruffling the sluggish water and raising clouds of thin ste am.
One of the two crown ships broke formation and took up position by the Cruiser as the Transport slowed and came to a full hover over the crash site. The recon probe floated in the water, bobbing up and down as it's emergency beacon flashed to indicate it's position.
"Dallas, I'm prepping the sub, the Cruiser'll stay here, unless you need to move her. Just tell GV what to do." Goose reported as he transferred power to the versatile submarine's systems and it began to power up for it's long mission.
"Understood, Goose. You get down there and give us a status report, then we'll make our move." Dallas replied, then turned to Zach. "Captain Foxx? Do you want to join Gooseman on this first dive?"
Zach slowly turned to face Dallas. "I'll wait." Was all he said. Dallas nodded, and flicked on theradio. "Gooseman, you are clear. Keep dry, youngster."
"Understood." Goose replied as he slid into the control chair for the sub and cycled the door shut. "Alma, system status." He asked. His familliar AI popped into the small viewscreen and ran a shipwide diagnostic. "All system are optimal, Goose." Goose nodded and punched the release button.
The small sub dropped from below the Cruiser as it was released from it's flight clamps. It's engines ignited and Goose flew the ship on a sharp dive into the water. The small ship thudded into and under the surface, with only a minor vibration as it shifted from flying through air to flying under water.
"Proceeding to the crash site. Exterior visiblity, very poor. Only five or so meters visible. Lots of dirt in the water." He reported.
The sub dove steadily onwards, it's engines thrumming as it dove deeper and deeper into the murky depths. "doppler sonar is picking up a strong metallic object ahead. Exterior floods are on, but nothing visibl- whoa!"
A short pause, with the whine of the sub's engines pouder for a moment, then
"Found her. Nearly ran into the thing. Dallas, you'd better make sure your people know exactly where they're going. There is a lot of dirt in this water. This ship's only been down for what, five hours? It's already covered with mud." Goose looked at the guages.
"It's cold down here. Only six degress centigrade. Thermal suits will definitely be required. Doppler sonar says there's still a lot of hollow space inside, so they still have air."
He swung the sub over the top of the liner, looking for streaming bubbles, or gaping holes, signs of physical damage.
After about ten minutes, he reported again. "I see no signs of air escaping, or external hull damage. Looks like she came down slowly enough to be completely intact."
Dallas looked at Zach, who suddenly looked a lot more interested.
"Any signs of life inside?"
"Not from out here, as I said, there's a layer of mud all over the ship, almost as if it was attracting the stuff." Goose replied.
"Ok, we got enough info. Goose get back up here, we're going to prep DSRV-2 and 3 for our first dive." Dallas said. "Zach, go to bay two and help get DSRV-2 ready, you're on that ship, and you'll be the first one inside the liner."
"I'm on it." Zach replied and almost ran out the door, his heart lighter than it had been in hours. They are still alive!'
"What was that?" Doc asked. Niko stopped and listened to the odd thrumming vibration that seemed to drift over the ceiling of the promenade.
"I don't know." She replied, then returned to her task of bandaging an ambassador's head wound.
Doc pulled out the CDU and checked it. "According to the sensors, there's a power source, outside the hull, slowly moving around."
The thrumming noise faded, and silence returned.
Doc looked at Niko, then handed her another bandage. "Whatever it is, it's gone."
"Hopefully, it's Zach and a whole BETA fleet to get us all out of here." Eliza said, coming up to them with another medkit. "Everyone in the lounge room is comfortable, how are things here?"
"Finished." Niko said, tying off the bandage and making the old ambassador more comfortable. She got to her feet and lookedaround. In the dim emergency lighting, the entire fairly open promenade area had taken on a gothic look, huge gaping shadows, blood-red illumination, smoky ceilings. "How long do we have before theair begins to go bad, Doc?"
Doc looked at his chrono. "Eight hours if we all stay awake. Twelve if most of us are asleep."