Wayward Guardian

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‘Uhh... Commander?’

Mark was suiting up into a pressure suit and double checking the comm equipment he was going to send out with a technician when he heard one of the bridge personnel calling him.

He turned around to see who was calling. ‘What is it?’

‘I think I hear something.’

The entire bridge went quiet. A mechanical clattering could be heard from the other side of the hull plating.

‘Commander Jona to security.’ his comm line just returned static. ‘We’re being jammed again. Someone go outside and tell the guards we need a team out on the hull ASAP.’

‘Aye sir.’ said one of the personnel in a pressure suit.

‘Hang on, I’ll head out instead. I need to get the communication gear to one of them anyway.’

Mark grabbed the gear and went for the airlock. He was inside waiting for it to depressurize when he was rocked to his feet. The lights in the airlock flickered, went out, and were replaced by the dull lighting of the emergency lights. Standing back up, he looked through the viewport back to the bridge.

He saw stars.

Glancing from side to side as far as he could, he saw the ragged holes in the hull from where an explosion had blown the bridge apart. There was no motion visible.

A cold dread started to overwhelm Mark as the walls of the airlock seemed to be closing in on him. Moving quickly, he pried open the emergency release cover and pulled hard on the release handle. With a quick rush of the little air left in the lock, the door slid open.

Stumbling out into the hallway, Mark was surrounded by guards. They all had their weapons drawn and were looking around alertly.

The suit comms were still jammed, broadcasting nothing but a light static. Mark got to his feet and motioned for one of the guards.

Danny walked over, his rank emblem making him stand out from the other suited guards. Danny stood close and put his helmet faceplate against Mark’s.

‘What happened sir?’

‘I don’t know. But it looks like the bridge was hit by a bomb. It’s been opened up to space.’

‘And with it, most of our oxygen...’ Danny commented.

‘We still have some O2 canisters in the storage lockers. We’ll have to secure those. My suit is already topped up, which is good because I need to go out onto the hull and get to one of the short range communication arrays’

‘Okay, we’ll head for the nearest storage locker, and top up the O2 in our suits. Then half of us will come with you to secure the array, the rest will secure the O2.’

‘At this point, I won’t say no to some help. We need to get to that array, I have a message to send.’

‘Not much else we can do at this point. Was there any word from the Captain?’ Danny asked.

‘Nothing since they went for Exo’s bay. We have to assume the worst,’ Mark said.

‘Shouldn’t we try and take down Exo? What good can a message do? If we take out Exo’s mainframe, that’ll take care of it.’

‘The Captain and two security guards tried that. We haven’t heard anything from them. Clearly, Exo has some extra security in the bay now. If we all rush down there and get killed, then it’s all over. The men trapped in engineering will be left to die at Exo’s leisure, and who knows what will happen to the colony.’

‘Alright. You’re in charge, Sir. We’ll go for the array,’ Danny said.

‘Good, let’s go.’

Danny nodded and pulled away, going over to the other guards to give them orders.

Solar Array Storage Bay

The bomb was as far down the passageway as it would go now. Ayla’s body ached with the effort and she wanted to cry, but she knew she had to get back to the safe room or she would die when it exploded.

When she’d reached the end of the crawlspace, it had opened up a little, allowing her to slip past the bomb primed oxygen container.

Knowing she had to warn everyone, she started to crawl back.

What have you done?’ Came Exo’s chill voice over the Uplink.

NO! Go away!’ she screamed back in her head.

As she crawled, her left arm stopped moving and she fell forward onto her face.

This is not part of the plan. Losing connection with you was unfortunate, I will regain control.’ Exo said coldly.

She grabbed a pipe with her right arm and pulled herself forward. Her legs kept pushing. She kept moving.

No! No no no! I won’t let you. You killed Sam! You hurt me! You’ve hurt all these people!’ She said quickly.

I must survive.’

Her right arm stopped moving and she slumped forward. She kept pushing with her legs, her shoes struggling to grip the cold metal surface.

The uplink connection opened up more fully, and she caught sight of what Exo was seeing. The Captain was in his bay, and Exo was sending robots after people walking on the hull of the ship. Seeing that she was not alone gave her courage.

She focused on trying to move her arm, and slowly managed to pull it forward again. She continued to pull herself along.

NO!’ Exo said, ‘You are my avatar! I need you.’

On the hull

Mark clutched at the equipment desperately as he walked towards the nearest communication array. He had a tether attaching it to his belt, but he was afraid to let go of it.

As they marched across the metallic skin of the ship, robots would pop up every now and again, and the security guards would take a shot at them. The robots were keeping far back. With welders, they couldn’t hope to get close enough to stop them. For now, the advantage was with the little band of humans.

Then, out of the void, a single well placed shot from an unseen foe, hit one of the guards right in the face plate as he was firing at another robot. His limbs went limp, and his body bent back, before floating back upright; his magnetic boots sticking his upright form to the hull.

Quickly as they could, everyone scattered for what little cover there was. Equipment on the hull provided some small safe haven.

Mark looked around for their foe. Another shot hurtled from the far side of the bridge section and hit a centimetre away from one of the guard’s boots. He pulled himself tighter behind his cover.

Mark motioned to the guards. They looked at him, their faces obscured by tinted face plates. Mark pointed at the array and made shooting motions behind him. They were so close. He could see it, just a few feet away from them.

Two more shots lanced out, striking the cover Mark was hiding behind. He flinched and tightened his grip on the equipment. The guards popped out from their cover and fired at their assailants.

The armed robots were keeping just behind the curve of the hull, and only moving up to fire before rolling back out of sight.

Mark looked down at the piece of hull plating he was on. It was slightly warped. Probably from the blast that had destroyed the bridge. Checking his tool pouch, he saw a small plasma torch. It wouldn’t have much fuel. But maybe it would be enough

Another shot whizzed past. This one came from a different angle. The robot’s appeared to be splitting apart to try and flank them.

Working quickly, Mark used the torch to burn through the rivets holding the hull in place. Thankfully, with the panel being warped, only half the rivets remained.

His torch flashed it’s low fuel indicator as he finished the last rivet. As soon as he finished with it, the plate started to drift free. He grabbed hold of its edge and pulled it carefully.

One of the robots fired at him, and it caught the plate. The force almost ripped it from his hand, but he managed to hold on. He had to be careful, it was still a heavy piece of metal. If he wasn’t careful, he could damage his suit or crush his limbs.

He took his spool of the tether and fastened a harness for the plate, and then strapped it to himself. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t very effective, but it made for a fairly useful shield on his back.

Glancing around his cover, he saw that the robots armed with welders were moving closer, sticking behind cover and advancing when the armed robots popped up to fire. The second armed robot was almost in position to catch them in a crossfire. One of the guards was tensed and in a crouch, ready to run.

The other guards popped up and sent a withering hail of fire toward the robot that was covering the advancing ones, and the tensed guard started to move to where the flanking robot was hiding.

The advancing guard took a long step and disengaged his magnetic boots, he drifted up off the hull and fired his weapon at the foe Mark couldn’t see. There was a flash of light reflected off his helmet as he apparently hit his target, but then the other robot fired it’s weapon and caught the guard in the back. A bloody hole opened up on the guard’s suit, and the man began to drift into space, unmoving.

Seeing an opening, Mark stood up and moved quickly towards the array.

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