USS Traveller
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Into The Clouds Of Destiny

Posted on Wed Oct 7th, 2020 @ 6:10pm by Captain Remas McDonald & Lieutenant Commander Shadi Zatra & Lieutenant Jolani Kohnar & Lieutenant Garrett Davies & Lieutenant Dinui Locke (loch) & Innocent Bystander & Lieutenant JG Addison Wheeler

Mission: S2:1: Good Will Gunboat Tour
Location: Upper atmosphere of the gas giant Resshixs
Timeline: MD27 11.48

One moment the USS Traveller was on the edge of the star system, sheltering behind chucks of black stellar ice, and the next she was in the atmosphere. Her slipstream drive cycled on and off so rapidly you'd not have noticed it running without the engineering team holding a prayer vigil over the power relays.

But no sooner had the Traveller made transit into the atmosphere, physics decided to sidle on up and give it a slap to the face. The starship had been at rest relative to the asteroid it had been hiding behind. A rock travelling at hundreds of thousands of miles an hour relative to the gas giant. A gas giant that also in motion relative to the star. And a star also making laps of the galaxy every epoch or so.

A lot of it got cancelled out.

But a not inconsiderable amount did not.

The hull rang like a bell as the pressure change made the seams screech. A sudden blast of plasma caused by the atmosphere around it igniting due to friction rolled around the ship. And the gravity of a massive gas giant pulled at them. The starship began to tumble, a hypersonic comet racing through the night's sky.

The Traveller had arrived.

+++

Remas held onto the armrests of his command chair, feeling both the physical restraints and the bridges inertial compensators working feverishly hard to keep everyone from being turned to red mist.

The holo bridges glass fishbowl showed a black sky of roiling orange clouds, forked here and there with city-sized lightning bolts that dove hundreds if not thousands of kilometres into the gas giants core.

"Jolani, I'd appreciate you reigning in the aerobatics," Remas said. "Chief Zatra, more power to the engines. I think we'll need all the horses for this."

"If you would prefer to be struck by the lightning, I would be glad not to do anything. We'll have a nice smooth ride into the gas giant until we burn up," she countered as she did her best to pull against gravity and break into something resembling an orbital pattern. She started doing some calculations and said, "Captain, I might recommend a short warp burst but it might trigger a reaction. Another option is giving us some extra push away by shooting a torpedo or two in an opposite direction."

Shadi slurped her tongue over her scaly mouth at the thought of feasting on a pack of horses. "Aye, Captain Remas! All the tasty horses!"

Garrett had been checking in with the rest of his security crew during the majority of their journey, running drills with them to make sure that those who would be assigned to the away team were more than capable of keeping the crew and the captain safe. He moved his gaze over to one of the panels which displayed the status of their weapons - all up and running, no problems. The next moment he had looked up, he could see the rolling orange clouds and bolts snapping and cracking. Gaz shot a tentative glance at Kohnar as she suggested that they'd fire a torp in the opposite direction.

75 Quantum, 85 Photon.

He had to weigh it up, pros versus the cons.

"We could loose one or two photon, cap'n." Gaz began, running his eyes through the stats as he tried to consider another angle. "Depends on whether we're expecting company."

"But in order for that to work, we'd have deactivate all inertial dampening," Shadi protested. "What would stop us from getting tossssed about in the gale-force winds?!"

"Would you just rather get sucked into the gas giant?" Jolani shot back at the Saurian.

Shadi threw her hands against her scaly face in sarcastic mock panic. "Are those our only two choices?!"

"All we need is for the launchers to impart force on the hull when they launch something. The recoil should give us a steady deceleration," Remas said. "Mister Davies use our store of Probes instead of torpedoes. They use the same launcher rails. Shadi, reactive internal compensators in all compartments not containing life signs. Jolanni, try to hold us steady, this will only work if the force vector remains constant or we'll just go into a spin."

"Well, if you're going to bring math into it..." Shadi muttered.

Jolani firmly gripped the console, as if willing the ship to stay in one place. "I'm trying to conserve every ounce of energy, as we might need it to get out. If I have to get out of this ship to stabilize it, I will find a way, Captain."

"Math is to flying as sheet music is to sonnets, Shadi. Canny have one without the other," Remas grinned. The holobridge display suddenly flickered, turning form the near-transparent bubble of clear space they worked into the dull grey featureless bridge of yore. One of the city-sized lightning bolts had arced down a dozen kilometres away.

And in the afterglow of the lightning strike burning against everyone's retinas...something was in the clouds with them. A shadow that was caught and then vanished hidden just below the churning clouds.

Internally, Jolani mourned the loss of her beautiful holographic display. However, she had only one thing to live for and that was the safety of the crew. If one included flying, it might be a second thing to live for. "I don't know what that was, Captain, but if you're planning on doing something, the time is now. I have him as steady as I can keep him!"

"If you need ramming ssspeed, just say the word!" Shadi hissed.

Remas was about to say something when with a lurch and groan of metal, the Traveller was slammed by something coming out of the clouds. A flash of red silk-like flesh, the tapered tentacles and aerodynamic mantle of some deep-sea cephalopod were the quick snapshot images Remas's mind caught as the starship rolled again and again.

The holobridge tried to keep the scene outside stable for the crew, and upon it, the creature that had arisen out of the cloud flexed its hundred meter long tendrils. It really did look like a giant squid from the cover of a Jules Verne book, with ivory barbs poking from its long tentacles and rows of dark pitiless eyes.

It was easily the equal of the Traveller for mass, and as its syphon drew in more of the ammonia-rich atmosphere of the gas giant it ejected it like a biological jet engine and flew toward them.

COLLISION ALERT the holobridge bleated in flashing red letters.

"Evasive manoeuvres now!" Remas barked as the aerial predator closed on them.

"Initiating evasive maneuver pattern delta six," Jolani barked back. "Extra power would be great, Captain," Jolani told Remus as Traveller entered into a looping spiral pattern.

The aerial cephalopod snapped out a barbed tentacle and slapped the Travellers port nacelle. With a jolt the ship shook, adding a drunken lurch to the spiralling dive.

"Shadi, every ounce of power you have to the engines," Remas grunted. "Mister Davis, Low power setting on the phaser array, I'd rather not kill it and send up a flare to the Myriad."

"Aye Cap'n." Gaz replied, needing little prompting as he lowered the settings, reading to fire off. His grip on the console tightened as they lurched into a dive.

"How dare that thing slap MY SHIP!" Jolani howled, protective of Traveller. "Now initiating evasive maneuver delta two. See if you can catch me now!"

Sat crosslegged and braced against the corner of bulkhead and wall, out of the way of the active crew, a shiny new bronze-skinned figure patiently observed. So much noise and motion, so many voices and actions as these intelligent forms worked together as a team to survive. And yet, to him, those staccato sounds of furious activity were welcome, far preferable to the heavy silence that had been his burden for so long. "You invaded her home," Bystander said, his words devoid of emotion. "Perhaps an apology would be appropriate?"

"Here's my apology!" Shadi shouted. She set the impulse drive to full stop while cranking up the deuterium reactors to full burn. The Traveller came to a sudden halt that brought a groan out from the inertial dampeners that was drowned out by the whine of the high-throttle of the engines. The deuterium gauge dropped like a rock on the impulse drive display as the engines vented high yield plasmoid exhaust straight into the cephalopod's face. "EAT PLASMA, YOU STARVING PARASSSITE!!!"

A lot of things happened. The holobridge's walls were lit with emergency pop up messages as a lot of systems involved with the impulse drive and fusion reactors commented that they were operating beyond their specs. Others were commenting that the shield plates to the aft of the hull were offline, and the reactive armour on the hull was beginning to glow as it converted the thermal spike from the venting plasma into photons.

The gas giant space squid reeled back at the cloud of blue burning plasma, recoiling as two of its tentacles evaporated on contact with the cloud. It began to retreat.

Then the nose of the Traveller began to drop steadily, and a blinking warning message began to pulse on Jolani's display.

Impulse Drive Off Line.

"You stupid lizard!" Jolani called out. "You show no respect to our more knowledgeable guest, Bystander! Now our impulse drives are off line!" She turned to the Captain. "I don't know if we can do it, but I suggest a short warp burst. It could take us out of this but we may be helpless when we get wherever."

He'd watched, quietly from his observation position behind them all, and refrained from further comment due mostly to trying to stop his newly created biological form from being thrown about in the somewhat insane 'handbrake turn' manoeuvre. In the wake of alerts and loss of motion, Bystander stood now, brushed his hand down his shirt and wandered closer to Jolani. There were certain protocols he'd witnessed in his download of the shared cultures of these newcomers to his existence. "Would it help if I got out and pushed?" He asked, politely, while keeping half his attention on the vast cephalopod's reverse movement.

Hearing that, Jolani did something that nobody on Traveller heard before. She laughed.

"It might just come to that," Remas said in a strained voice. "Negative on the warp burst. It would defeat the purpose of us sneaking into the system if we did that. Instead, turn us into the jet stream on thrusters. The space frame has enough surface area to generate a small amount of lift, we might be able to stabilise until the drives come back online."

Online. Online. Shadi wracked her brain trying to figure out what to do now.

Jolani wondered what Fell might have thought of this situation. The old wound nagged at her again, knowing she had just laughed. Guilt wracked her for feeling joy without him, even if maniacal joy. Her tone returned to a more depressed one. "Aye, Captain. I'll float Traveler on jet streams like a butterfly. Thrusters on, trying to float and praying for all that the biological entity does not crush us."

Dinui was muttering as she looked at the data that the Wise Men were giving her. Their bronze skinned guest was a breath of fresh air in many ways and if she wasn't worried about the ship she would have been laughing at his comments.

Bystander watched and listened. He noted the swiftly abandoned mirth than shifted to melancholy obedience in Jolani, and he reached out to place a palm against the female officer's shoulder blade. This gesture seemed to be helpful to humanoids, though he didn't truly understand why. Meanwhile, in the privacy of his current self, Bystander soaked up as much detail as possible from the Traveller's computer and her related systems. Everything about this ship was screaming...

"I can fix this!" Shadi shouted to no one in particular. "I can fix this!" She took two steps toward the turbolift only to halt mid stride. "No time!" She pivoted toward an auxiliary console along the rear wall of the bridge, ripped it free from its based, and cast it aside without a care. "I CAN FIX THIS!!!" she shouted as she slithered into the hole in the wall barely larger than her head.

After she disappeared, Remas' combadge chirped. "Shadi to Captain Remas. I'm already halfway to the Jeffries tube between Decks 9 and 10. Once I get to the injector assembly, I'll reset it or die trying, but I won't know whether I'm sssuccessful till I die. Pleassse have somebody watch the gauge on the deuterium tankage! Preferably not a milk-drinking monkey-hump!"

"Lieutenant Wheeler to the Bridge," Remas said to the air. This...this was actually rather tame compared to the file that had come along with her service jacket. The ship around them groaned and creaked as thrusters designed for attitude adjustment and course correction burned hard to keep the ship steady.

Those were five words that Addy had so expected to never go together that she almost didn't even hear them at first. They sort of just...floated toward her ears, getting caught in the twists of her hair until weaseling their way forward. Wheeler? Bridge? WHAT?! She tapped her badge and managed a half-stammering 'yes, sir,' wondering what in all the starts could have happened to Shadi that Addy would have to go topside!

You're next in line. It's why she left you in charge down here?

That voice didn't help. Squeaking, she waved at the first engineering officer she saw to oversee things downstairs while she rushed to the bridge, almost running into every door in the process and just barely managing to compose herself as she stumbled onto the bridge. "Lieutenant Wheeler reporting as ordered, sir?"

"The starving injector assembly is jammed up tighter than Arivek's asshole," Shadi said through the communicator in reference to her predecessor. Arivek was the object of much of Shadi's profanity. "I will need to detach the deuterium tanks from the premix chamber, clear the jam, and then reattach before I die. Thisss is the part where I need someone controlling the bloody mixture and monitoring the gauge, otherwise I'm humped."

There was a lot to taken in after the retreat of what seemed like a giant squid, but Gaz wasn't about to take a sentient's retreat as any good sign after they had been engaged. Gaz checked over their itinerary and ramped up the power on the fore phaser arrays just in case the thing wasn't done yet. "Cap'n, raising power to our defenses now whilst they sort out the impulse drive." Gaz frowned, even as the Bystander suggested getting out and pushing. "Y'know, that wouldn't be too bad of an idea if yer not jokin' of course."

So much slang, cursing and confusion, yet Bystander stood still and let their words filter through translation protocols designed by far more complicated entities than his current form. Once, he knew, he'd had the ability to operate in far more than these mere dimensions, but that musing was a pointless diversion of attention here and now. Death, as the reptilian female kept protesting was imminent, it was a final state for these beings and as such needed to be avoided at all costs. So, he sifted through their jargon and cursing to extricate the facts that he could do something about. "Mirth was not my intention," Bystander confirmed back to Garrett. "The ability exists within my remit, affirmative." He looked to the hole that Shadi had vanished down and.. slowly.. mustered up a frown. He wasn't sure if he should be intervening or not. "I could assist your divine-dragon, her death is unnecessary."

"Her death is utterly over-exaggerated," Remas muttered. "Shadi do not die this day, consider that an ord-"

He began to say the command when a subtle wrongness washed over him. Judging by the reactions of those on the bridge, that subtle shadow of something untangible crossing over them was not uncommon. Before he could ask Locke to find out what it was, the sensor picked up the charging bull rush of the ariel squid.

It was too late to react, to fire or evade...but there was no crump of impact, now guttural lurch to one side as the starship sized creature rammed into them. There was a brief flash of red and orange, like a mist washing through the bridge before vanishing.

The squid had just passed right through the Traveller.

Gaz had barely had the time to look at the sensors before something had passed through them. Wait - passed through them? Gaz's knuckles had practically turned white against the console, bracing himself for further impact but there was nothing. Their sensors were blowing up metaphorically, and Gaz turned to read them, his brows knotted as he saw two ships having appeared next to them. "Cap'n, two ships have just....appeared, no warp signature detected. The squid hasn't caused any internal damage to the ship." He scratched at his chin. "Hold on, pullin' up somethin'..."

It took him a few moments, as he went about their various data files in search of something. It felt instinctual, it felt as if he knew something that the rest of the crew had yet to catch up on but there was more than that riding on his instincts. If they were hostile, he had the crew's safety to consider. "There was no slipstream neither. Can't correlate anything to them having come in from anywhere, so that would have to mean they've been here before. Ahah!" He looked between the two readings. "Thought the signature looked familiar. These are similar to the failed experiment involving cloakin' tech."

"The Pegasus Experiment?" Remas asked. The holobridge system was coming back on line slowly replacing warning signs with reboot timers. Then with a flash of holographic pixels the system came fully back online, encasing the bridge crew in the spherical style dome of the holobridge.

Towering continent-sized cloud systems surrounded them, and the aerial squid could be seen jetting here and there through them, rejoining a flock of the giant beasts. But what was more impressive were the two ships flanking them. The hulls of each ship were striped in a dazzle pattern of gold and red armour plates, giving them a scaled appearance. They were rhomboid in shape, with a trio of engine nacelles at their pointed sterns.

Each ship was bathing the Traveller in a pale beam of energy.

"Unknown vessel, this is the Brass Citadel guard ship Crescent Awakening. We detect a Casstauilli life sign aboard your ship, as well as a faster than light capacity in your engines. We bid you welcome, and safe passage to the City of Brass."

Jolani looked at Bystander and the Captain said, "I'm confused. What is a Casstauilli life sign and how did the jellyfish pass through us? Did it really hit us or was it something else?"

"Something else, and I am a Casstaulli," Mazarian slithered onto the bridge, his lower pair of traction limbs moving with ease over the deck liner. His serpentine face was resplendent with a smile as warm and the blood in Remas's veins. "Those are guard ships, and as for why that cloud reaper passed through the ship, that is simple: we are out of phase with reality. Just slightly, but enough to be intangible. How else do you think we were able to hide our entire civilisation from the Myriad with them crouching over the corpse of your solar system?"

"Some warning perhaps," Remas said with a smile. "Those ships didn't seem to take our word for it that you're not a prisoner or captive?"

"Any help, even help by those with hostile intent, against the Myriad would be welcome. Our technology is advanced enough that even that possibility has taken into account. The fact that we are not alone, that perhaps we have aid...is all," Mazarian said. He looked around the bridge. "Is Shadi not...present?"

It was in that moment that Shadi came crawling out of the small hole in which she had disappeared. Her scales were singed, in some places deeply, giving off smoke where her uniform had been. Standing naked in all her burned glory, her flat chest heaved deeply as she fought for air and patience.

"Why... in the... starving... famine... did... nobody... watch... THE INJECTION ASSEMBLY FOR THE FUEL MIXTURE?! DO YOU KNOW HOW HOT STARVING PLASMA IS?! I ALMOST DIED!!!" She snorted in contempt at the entire bridge. "Helm should be able to kick-start the impulse engines now... no thanksss to any of you!"

"I believe I called that upon myself," Mazarian said dryly.

"Jolani, let's see if the engines can come back on line. It would not do for our first contact with the Caustaulli to be that them towing us into port," Remas said.

"No, that would be quite inappropriate." Jolani let her hands fly over the console pad and after a moment and a small jerk in the ship's movements, she said, "Impulse is back online, Captain."

"Very well," Remas said. "Jolani, lay in a companion course and let's see where we end up."

 

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