Wednesday, 28 November 2012

24



24.


The explosions as the Titans ripped the probe apart were picked up on the drop-ship's sensors as Sully fell through the low atmosphere. That gave him a good idea as to their location and so he was able to adjust course slightly to be able to land just behind the crest of a small hill overlooking the probe. He directed the drop-ship containing the Fuller's Thumper a few clicks back from that. Sully couldn't, however, get a location on Mason. 
"Mason, you there? Cavalry's here" he broadcast at her. "I need a location for tightbeam coms" this would prevent their communications from being intercepted.
There was a brief pause of static, before Mason spoke up. She sounded harried.
"Yeah, burst link, er coming"
A small blob of blue appeared in Sully's map overlay. Mason was on the opposite side of the plain to where Sully was headed, not bad from a tactical point of view, but she was very close to the Titans. 
"You ok? Y'seem quite close to those big buggers"
"Uh-huh, just, er, testing their defences"
"The verdict being?"
"Yeah, er, it's pretty good. I'm pulling back"
"Ok, I'll be on the ground in 15 secs. Standby"
If only it was that simple. As Mason made her tactical retreat - suit smoking slightly, charred down the right hand side - the Titans were able turn their attention to the incoming drop-ship. 
"Woah, woah, WOAH" Sully exclaimed as targeting lasers and radar tracers painted his ship. He frantically started running bypass scripts, try and convince the Titans he wasn't really there, while the drop ship AI released chaff to try and confuse any incoming ordinance. Neither of which, however, were enough to bypass the Titans' sophisticated electronic suite. 
They fired. 
Sully slammed the eject button, thrusting himself up and out of the ship, while his two Ostrich drones were dropped below it. The explosion of the ship as the Titans pounded it into fragments sent Sully into a wild spin as he looped back down towards the ground. Just about managing to arrest the spin, he fired the suit's jump thrusters to cushion the landing, although it still came with a heavy impact that made his teeth rattle. Within half a second he was up and running, initially going silent, turning off as many active processes as possible to reduce the chance of the Titan's tracking him, much as Mason had been doing as he first came in to land. 
He felt a little safer as no more targeting protocols found him. Safer still when he had the hill between him and the Titans. He gradually switched systems back on. The scan revealing that Mason had moved back from the Titans, themselves having started to move away from the now smouldering probe. He launched a couple of side scripts looking at where the big war machines might be headed, as to his naked eye they didn't seem to be headed towards either him or Mason. With that running he turned his attention to assembling his pack of drones. 
The Thumper reported all systems green, as did one of the Ostriches, but the other was sending in all manner of errors. Sully cursed and started to wade through the diagnostics. It soon became apparent that Ostrich had landed badly after the ejection from the drop ship. It's own jump thrusters misfired, causing it to land awkwardly on one of its already delicate legs. It could still move, bit had been shorn of the speed that made these drones even remotely useful. 
"Ok Mason, you'll be glad to know I'm ok, thanks for asking. What's is your status?" Sully had to risk an encrypted general broadcast to reach Mason as the hill got in the way of the more secure tight-beam.
"I'm doing fine. Don't need babysitting"
"Uh-huh, so you and your little men got the Titans beat then?"
"Will do when I can close enough to the fuckers. But their point defence systems are pretty full on"
"Why'd you even test them? Thought Gumelar told you to sit tight?"
"Gumelar says a lot of things. So are you gonna help, or just sit over there whining?"
"What do you suggest? I've got a Thumper and one functioning Ostrich, and you've got a measly six plastoids. Hardly gonna leave the Titans shaking with fear is it"
"Two and a half" Mason replied.
"What?"
"I've got two and a half plastoids"
"What the fuck did you do to the rest?"
"Pirates took one, and a bit of another. Lost the other two attacking the Titans"
"You are properly fucking mental" Sully shook his head "So with our depleted packs, you’ve some sort of brilliant plan I hope?"
"Rain hell on them with the Thumper, confuse them with the ugly fucking Ostrich getting under their feet, then I'll go slit some metallic throats. Job done."
"Couple of problems with that. First you've already fucked the job far as I can see. The pirates fought you off and I saw from my drop-ship that the probe recovery part of the deal wasn't going so well, what with it going up in a massive fireball and all" Part of Sully enjoyed goading Mason, while another worried slightly about the consequences of winding up such an unpredictable marine. 
"Not my fault"
"Sure. Also, even if I went for your 'raining hell' plan, the fact that Fuller dedicated most of the Thumper's ordinance to anti-personnel stun bombs isn't really gonna work all that well against massive fuck off Titans"
"The dumb fuck"
"What? You mean him actually tendering to try and do a good job rather than showing off with your plastoid fettish? How dare he" Sully said irritably.
"So what do you suggest then, genius?"
"That we leave"
"What?"
"We can easily declare force majeure on the tender. The probe, and probably the pirates, are long gone, so there is nothing to keep us here"
"You massive pussy" Mason was not impressed.
"You can't just leave, dude" the slightly disconnected sounded voice of Lloyd broke into the conversation
"WHOTHEFUCKSAIDTHAT?" Sully exclaimed.
"Er, hi, I'm Lloyd"
"I told you last time what was going to happen to you Lloyd, now get the fuck out of my coms stream" Mason replied, anger dripping off the threat. 
"Wait. You know this Lloyd person?" Sully was baffled. 
"He's one of the pirates, the hacking fuck"
"How'd he break our coms?"
"Wasn't too difficult in the end" chirped up Lloyd "I just re-routed one of your geo-locat...."
"I wasn't talking to you" interrupted Sully. 
"But you've got to listen to me dude. Those big, er, droney things, we think they're headed to the main water processing facility"
"So?" Sully asked while simultaneously calling up the script he'd launched earlier to track where the Titans were headed. The route computed by the tac-suit put them on course for the large facility. 
"The facility is powered by a massive hydrogen fusion reactor" Chen explained.
"And who might you be?" Sully was exasperated - did anyone else feeling like breaking into his encrypted conversation?
"Doesn't matter. All that does matter is if those Titans do to the reactor what they did to the probe the we are all in deep shit"
"That's outside of our, er, remit" Sully felt pathetic even saying it.
"Your remit precludes preventing moon cracking explosions?" Chen asked with more than a hint of angry sarcasm. 
"The facility is protected by Lanark Horishmo automated defence systems" Sully was hurriedly looking up details on the facility, trying to make sense what was going on. 
"Protected against Titans? Think about it, whoever is running the other ship wouldn't have sent Titans just to wipe out a crashed probe. Maybe they'd send something a bit more robust than those fucking things your colleague sent over to us, but Titans are way over the top. Unless they have another objective" Chen was firm in his assertion of the issues. Having only narrowly escaped the destruction of the probe (twice for that matter - the crash landing and the Titan attack) he was becoming fonder of getting to the point more quickly. 
"But why would they want to destroy the facility?" wondered Sully, despite inwardly acknowledging that the pirate might have a point. 
"The fuck do we care?" Mason broke in "Hey Sul, I'm liking your force maj-er-thing plan. Let's fuck off outta here and leave the pirate fucks to watch the pretty fireworks"
"Because you want the science data from the probe" Chen replied calmly.
"The what?" said a surprised Sully.
"You heard. So here is the deal, you stop the Titans from breaking Europa in half, then you give us passage back to your ship. We give you the science data. Everyone wins. You might even get a bonus for protecting the facility. I know how your paymasters get hard thinking all about the VFM in that"
"What's stopping us from just coming over there and taking the science data?" there was a sneer in Mason's voice. 
"Firstly, you don't know where we are" Chen was right, despite Sully's best scans, he couldn't pinpoint them. "Secondly, if we've got a guy that can hack your coms and foil your location scripts, don't you think we're capable of protecting the data? Now, do we have a deal?"
"Ok" said Sully.
"You fucking kidding me?" argued Mason "You want to do a deal with these fuckers?"
"Can't see a better alternative. Plus you actually get your way and we take on the Titans"
"Good point" Mason's mood brightened "Time to get our hands dirty"
"Excellent" replied Chen "Then we shall leave you to get on with it" the pirates' link to the marines dropped off. 
Sully, Mason and the lone functional Ostrich were easily able to catch up with the lumbering Titans just over ten clicks away from the facility, but were careful to stay out of range of the big machines' heavy weaponry. The Thumper didn't need to catch up to be useful, while the limping Ostrich and what was left of Mason's plastoids were left back near the destroyed probe. Neither of the marines had yet come up with a plan that could both agree might work. Sully had tested for himself the Titans’ point defences, lobbing a few stun-bombs from the Thumper which were all easily intercepted by the shoulder mounted beam weapons. Mason, predictably, favoured a frontal assault, hope that they can dodge the Titans' weaponry for long enough to get in close and try and locate a weak point to focus on. However, Sully had not failed to notice the vicious scarring down the right side of Mason's tac-suit from the last time she had attempted such a move. 
By the time they’d stopped arguing the facility was only 7 clicks away. They'd eventually agreed to coordinate a missile attack on the Titans, try to overwhelm them by firing what few missiles the Thumper had along with those from the Ostrich and their own tac-suits. Sully even threw over more stun-bombs to try and confuse the Titans. A few missiles and most of the stun bombs made it through, but were not enough to do much more than dent some of the Titan's thick armour. They'd need many more missiles than they actually had to do any serious damage. But something did strike Sully with slightly more of an impact; an idea. 
"Hey Mason, how'd they know to target the missiles first, then the stun-bombs?" Sully asked, but suspected he already knew the answer.
"They're running some pretty neat targeting software. It actively prioritises the threat level of the incoming ordinance. I tried bypassing that, but nothing worked."
"So given that the missiles are highly explosive, and the stun-bombs less so, it intercepts the missiles first"
"Yup"
"Even if that means a few of the bombs get through, cos anything that does get through will be of lower priority and therefore less damaging"
"Yeah. Are you deliberately being slow, as this isn't exactly hard to understand"
"Just working something through" a hint of a smile in his voice.
"What?"
"If you were sophisticated targeting software, how would you rank a high-explosive missile versus, oh I don't know, say a lump of polymer carrying a knife?"
"The hell you on about? Oh" Mason began to follow "I'd target the, er, missile first. Then maybe the polymer ordinance would get through.
"Exactly"
"So how do we get the plastoids launched at the Titan then? They can't catch up on foot"
"Have a look at this" Sully beamed over a picture taken from one of the damaged Ostrich's cameras. It was difficult to make out what was happening to start with, as the drone was in an unusual position, on its back, legs bent above it. 
"Er, what?" Mason was confused, the sensation irritated her.
"Say hello to the all new mark one Sully industries plastoid catapult. All aboard!"
Again, it took a few seconds for Mason to follow Sully's slightly bizarre train of thought, but then she understood. She commanded the plastoids to climb on to one of the Ostrich's feet. To hang on. 
"Launch all remaining missiles on my mark, then I'll lob over the plastoids" Sully commanded.
"Yes si...er...Sully" Mason responded, caught off guard by the authoritative tone of the other marine's voice. 
It took Sully a few more seconds to butcher one of the Thumper's aiming scripts, combine it with some of the data blueprints from the Ostirch's leg assembly and finally come up with a firing vector for the plastoids. With no slight trepidation, he instructed Mason to fire, followed by the makeshift catapult; the Ostrich rapidly extending it legs and flinging the plastoids. Missiles arced in from four angles, raining down onto the two Titans. The point defence lasers started to light up, flashes bright as beam and missile met. 
Then came the plastoids.
A green blur to the naked eye, but Sully used his tac-suit to slow the footage down, and watched as the three little men fell on to the Titans. To Mason's credit, she'd taken to the plan well, and combined with her intimate knowledge of the plastoid as a device of the battlefield, was quickly able agilely jump one of the three across the gap between the two Titans while the other two went to work on the one they had fallen upon. 
It was a fascinating assault, the plastoids climbing over the Titans like some kind of viscous insect, searching for a weak point to exploit. The Titans couldn't work out how to respond, unable to adapt to an unforeseen route of attack. They halted, trying to bring their weaponry to bear, none of which could. The shoulder mounted beam weapons rotated ineffectually as they sought a firing angle. 
Minutes passed, Sully feared that the plastoids would not be able to find a weak point as they prodded and poked. The Titans might well have calculated the same as they moved off again towards the facility. Sully risked asking Mason how it was going, wary of distracting her. 
Give them time was her simple textual response as she concentrated fully on commanding them.
It was the lone plastoid, the one missing its head, on the Titan furthest away from Sully that made the breakthrough. Just below where the shoulder blades would be on an equivalently sized human it had managed to prize up the corner of a piece of armour. Its knife was jammed into the gap made, violently worked back and forth to bend the armour a little further back. This time the knife ripped a little deeper. 
Then the plastoid disappeared. 
At first Sully thought it had fallen off, but he couldn't see anything on the ground around the Titan. So he replayed the footage, slowed it down. The plastoid had disappeared inside the Titan. Sully felt a bit sick. 
Learning from their headless brother, the two plastoids on the other Titan quickly manoeuvred around to the weak point in the armour and went to work. Then they too disappeared into the Titan. It took more agonising minutes until their attack from the inside of the Titans showed any evidence on the outside. The Titan with the two plastoids inside it stumbled, then dropped to one massive knee. It attempted to get up, but quickly fell back onto both knees. It then fell forward, attempted to use one of its weaponised arms to support it, but the large barrel crumpled under the weight. The Titan fell onto its side, motionless. 
The other massive war machine marched on, heedless of the fate of its brother-in-arms. Sully feared that the headless plastoid had maybe malfunctioned, or got trapped in the machine's inner workings. It wouldn't be long before the Titan was within firing range of the facility. Sully wondered why the defence systems attached to the factory hadn't powered up yet. Maybe more AI oddness, he wondered. 
Sully commanded his tac-suit to pick up speed and head in front of the Titan. If the Plastoid wasn't going to work, then he and Mason would have to try and engage it directly. With no missiles left, that would be difficult, but hopefully not impossible.
Then he spotted a movement on the front of the Titan, a piece of armour in the centre of its chest started to work its way free. It took a little more time, but the armour then fell to the ground. The plastoid clambered out, smoking slightly, left arm melted. With only one arm it took a little while for it to climb up the front of the Titan. To get to eye level with the Titan. 
To give it the finger. 
The Titan exploded, heat and pressure waves washing against Sully's tac-suit as he stood in awe. After a short while Mason moved up next to him, but didn't say anything for a while, the two just watching the smouldering drone. 
"Gumelar is never going to belive that actually worked" remarked Sully after a few minutes.

Monday, 26 November 2012

23



23.

Lloyd thought he was hallucinating when he first saw one of the plastoids. A little green man wielding a knife; that was the stuff of his drug fuelled nightmares. 
Then Chen smacked it in the face with a pipe.
The three of them had fallen back into the science section of the probe, Chen explaining it would be easier to defend, that the marine would be tasked with securing the probe intact, so they needn't fear heavy weaponry. Lloyd had cowered at the back of the room, using every trick he knew to try and break through the electronic defence and get through to the marine. Plead their case. This left Chen and Kel to defend the large jagged gash in the side of the hull. Chen took to it with aplomb, batting the plastoids away with raw aggression. Kel was not a natural, but his instinct for self preservation kicked in when faced with a long knife, pushing the plastoids away from the hull with the long metal rod he'd pulled out of a wall cavity. 
Chen struck the next one through the hole so hard that it dropped the knife, which skittered around at their feet. The  drone kept up its attack, clawing at Kel's suit, but unarmed Chen was able to knock it off then batter it into a gooey mess. Kel picked up the knife and had an idea. In the tool pack on his suit thigh was some industrial tape, which he used to attach the knife onto the end of his rod, ready for the next assault. 
"Hello? Er, Marine, can you hear me?" Lloyd attempted his latest bypass, and was again greeted by static. Except this time that static warbled into something approaching a voice.
"How the fuck did you get through?" the voice sounded a nasty mix of confused and pissed off. 
"Please, we, er, come in, er, peace"
"Well you're going to be leaving in pieces" the com link was severed. 
"Shit" said Lloyd
"Never mind Lloyd, it was always a long shot” Chen stated, before clattering another plastoid away from the hull. 
"She was not nice, dude"
"Worth a try though, bought us a little time maybe" Then Chen made his mistake; he turned to look at Lloyd. 
The plastoid that Mason had sent to climb round the top of the hole jumped down, knife pointed at Chen's head as it fell. While Chen hadn't seen it, the movement had caught Kel's eye who swung his rod up instinctively. The knife at the end of the rod skewered the plastoid through its head, which then slid down the rod leaving a trail of greenish polymer slime as it went. 
But the plastoid wasn't done. It swung its knife wildly, the movement and the weight making Kel lower the rod, the plastoid dangling like a grim piƱata. Chen would have liked nothing more to take a swing at it, but instead had to contend the next two plastoids that Mason had rushed into the breach. 
"Gonna need some help here" Chen yelled through gritted teeth. Kel swung the rod back round, the impaled platoid still swinging via its head. He managed to knock one of Chen's attackers away, but also nearly slashed the pirate-scientist as well. Chen had to quickly jump back. 
"Sorry" Kel broadcast.
"Behind you" Chen wasn't bothered about apologies right now, he was more concerned about the final two platoids jumping through the gap. "Lloyd, forget coms, we need you over here"
"Uh, ok" Lloyd nervously picked up the bent wall strut that Chen had given him earlier, and moved forward to join the others, muttering about little green men as he went. 
Kel was getting overwhelmed. The weight of the dangling plastoid on his rod was making his arms and shoulders tired. Each defensive swing he was making was that bit slower, making it harder and harder to fend them off. Lloyd had gone towards Chen, and the two of them were now fighting a plastoid each in pitched combat, leaving Kel on his own against the other three. One of those grabbed his rod just above the knife end as he made a tired and desperate lunch. Kel tried to pull it free, but was so tired and the plastoid remained holding on. This allowed its partner to come at Kel from the side, prompting him to drop the rod and move back. The two free plastoids started to come towards him - he would swear they were smiling - their impaled brother was struggling to get up off the floor as one end of the rod had got trapped in some wrecked equipment at the side of the room. 
Just as Kel was waiting for the final rain of knife strikes, the two plastoids stopped. For second they just looked at him. Then they swung back to their trapped brother, one holding the rod up while the other hacked away at impaled plastoid's neck, severing it in three strikes. Kel's eyes widened as the headless plastoid got up. And then watched as it followed its full bodied brothers out of the hull breach, along with the two that had been fighting Chen and Lloyd. The headless plastoid briefly paused at the gap. 
And gave them all the finger. 
It then jumped over the side and out of view, the three humans were left alone to stand in confused silence for a few seconds. 
"Er, did that thing just..." Lloyd began.
"Yes it did" interrupted Chen, "But that isn't important right now. We need to regroup for their next assault"
"So they weren't giving up then?" Kel asked doubtfully.
"Highly unlikely. Go get your rod back" Chen instructed, as he moved to stand guard back at the hull breach. 
Kel slowly retrieved the rod, rubbing aching shoulders first and cursing under his breath. With the rod in hand, he rejoined Chen and Lloyd at the side of the room, looking out onto Europa through the large gap in the hull. He turned to look at them, each were staring into the sky. Kel slowly followed their gazes up. 
"Oh. More shooting st.....er....I mean meteori.....oh bugger. Not more drop ships?"
"Yup" replied Lloyd "We're fucked", shoulders slumped. 
"But maybe these ones might be friendly? Couldn't that be the case?" Kel directed his question to Chen, who had up till now been considering the two new drop ships in silence. 
"To be honest, I haven't got a fricking clue why they're sending more drop ships down. Doesn't make any sense" Chen sighed. "But if I had to put money on it, I wouldn't bet on them being friendly"
"So what, we hold out here some more? I don't think I got much fight left in me, dude" Lloyd had sat back down. "I mean, what's the point? Even if we can fight them off we'll still suffocate. And you heard the marine I spoke to, she ain't gonna be hanging out the welcome bunting for us any time soon"
Chen turned back to Lloyd as the drop ships made their landing just over the horizon. Kel regard him curiously, was now the time for Chen to give the rousing speech that gave them the strength to carry on? 
"You're right, we're fucked" and with that Chen plonked himself back down. 
"That's it?!" huffed Kel "We just give up? After all the shit we've gone through today?"
"Oh no" said Chen "I'm not giving up. I'm just catching my breath"
"But you said I was right?" asked Lloyd dubiously.
"You are. I'm just getting to like playing the long odds. Nita always teased me for being so, well, scientific about everything. But sometimes you got to look at the shitty situation and say to yourself" Chen paused, Kel and Lloyd both leant in for this pearl of wisdom from the dour scientist. 
"Fuck it" Chen concluded. The manic grin was back. This time accompanied by a rumbling explosion in the distance. 
"What was that?" Kel was always fond of the obvious questions.
"The shitty situation getting that bit shittier would be my guess" mused Lloyd grumpily.
Chen had jumped up and gone back to the open side of the hull, scanning the horizon. A thin trail of smoke lazily curled into Europa's atmosphere about 10 clicks away. 
"I'm going up top to take a look" he broadcast back to the other two, then set about climbing back onto the hull of the crashed probe. 
Kel looked at Lloyd who was still slumped on the floor, but his curiosity outweighed his instinct to try and talk the lanky system analyst and so he set off after Chen to have a look at what was going on. By the time he'd clambered up on top of the probe there had been two more explosions, the second of which definitely felt closer. However, besides from more smoke trails, Kel couldn't work on what had been happening. 
"What's going on?" he asked Chen, who was busy tracking a small blur of movement a few clicks to the east of the explosions.
"I think they're fighting each other - the first marine against the two drop-ships. That's a tac-suit over there" he pointed at the object he'd been tracking, Kel squinting to try and make it out. 
"So the new arrivals might be friendly after all?"
Chen shook his head "I've never really gone with the 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' school of thought. Usually it seems more like my enemy's enemy wants to kill me even harder"
"You're worse than Lloyd" Kel chided.
"Well I'm about to get even worse"
"How is that possible?"
"They've sent Titans" Chen nodded at the horizon; now clearly silhouetted against it were the two large humanoid forms. Two large humanoid forms getting larger as they headed towards the probe. 
"We are fucked" muttered Kel.
"Heh, welcome to the club" Chen gave Kel a companionable slap on the shoulder. 
"What we gonna do?"
"Leg it"
"Huh?"
"Staying put against the lowest bidder made sense, but now the big guns have arrived it's time to make haste. Those things are designed to smash large targets to pieces, they aren't so great against smaller fast movers. That's what the tac-suited marine is gambling on too" he watched as the tac-suit moved onto a course parallel to the Titans, occasionally launching a micro-missile, or plasma blast.
One of the Titans stopped, brought an arm cannon up. The weapon fired wasn't in the visual spectrum, but whatever it was made a patch of ground a few metres to the left of the tac-suited marine suddenly decide that it would rather be 100 metres in the air and on fire. 
Chen led the way back down off the probe, stopping at the gap in the side to call to Lloyd.
"Come on Lloyd, time to go" Chen said. Lloyd was still sat slumped where they'd left him. 
"I can't get through to them" replied Lloyd.
"Who?" asked Kel as he joined Chen at the side of the hull. 
"The new guys"
"The Titan's run a tighter security protocol, makes sense that you can't get through to their pack leader" explained Chen.
"No dude, you don't understand. I can't get through cos they ain't there"
"Huh?" Chen didn't understand.
"The first marine, even when I couldn't get through to start with, I at least knew she was there. I could see her shadow in the data flows. These guys don't have that."
"Could just be really good protocols?" although Chen was frowning. 
"Nah man, nothing is that good. These things don't have a controller moon-side" Lloyd's statement saw the three lapse into silence for a few seconds. 
"Must have a ship in geo-sync orbit. Odd though with such fancy hardware" Chen thought out loud.
"Er, excuse me for interrupting" Kel was looking behind him, away from the probe and towards the Titans "But does any of this alter the running away plan?"
"What?" Chen turned to him irritably, chain of thought broken. 
"It's just that if the plan is still the, er, same, now might be a good time to execute it"
"Why?" Chen snapped.
"Cos I think one of them is aiming at us"

Sunday, 25 November 2012

22



22.

The tac-suit was a marvel of the battlefield. It was, however, fairly useless when it came to squeezing through tight spaces. The wreckage in the main bay had blocked Fuller's path over to the side where Si's drones and, hopefully, Brook were located. He was tempted to try and blast his way through the blockage, but firing off high explosive rounds inside the intervention ship didn't feel like the most sensible decision, especially on top of the damage it had already taken. 
So Fuller had had to go around the blockage, which in this case meant around the outside of the ship. Using the suit's jump thrusters, he was able to propel himself along, using the claw like grips of the feet and hands of the suit to change direction by grabbing on to protrusions on the hull and swinging round to the desired new heading. While not designed for this sort of activity, it was working well. 
It was also making Fuller feel decidedly sick. 
Europa hung below him, the large icy moon with its criss-crossing fault lines stretching to the horizon while the ship was in low orbit. The perspective felt off, and he had to stop himself from looking up at it. Not helping matters were the distracting blurs of movement he occasionally caught out of the corner of his eyes. The tac-suit told him that they were the drones from the other ship. They reminded him of flies around a cow shit back home, but that analogy reflected badly on all sides. 
Thankfully the rate of fire from the drones had slackened off since Fuller had gone outside. When he first emerged after an emergency airlock cycle he'd had a prime view of a micro missile penetrating whatever electronic defence Si was able to mount without his own drones. The missile struck the ship down towards the rear of its ion drive. Some kind of gas was still venting from the wound now, but since then no missiles had hit the ship. Keep it up Si. Just get me a little time to rescue your drones and we can turn the tables.
One more pulse from the jump thrusters and he'd be on the outside of the drone bay doors. For a scary second he thought he'd miscalculated the trajectory, but was able to stick out an arm and grab on to a piece of hull plating half torn off in the initial attack. The actual drone bay doors themselves seemed unscathed, but something did appear to be trapped in one of them. Fuller climbed over to try and release the obstruction.
The body. 
"AGGHHH!" Fuller let go and immediately started to drift away from the ship and towards Europa. He just about regained composure enough in order to fire a small jump thrust back to the ship, where he attempted to catch his breath. He'd seen death before, even caused some of it. But it never got any easier to see. Tentatively he moved back towards the body, which had been near severed by the hull door mechanism. On this side was the top half, arms lazily drifting in the zero g. 
Phelp
How the hell had she ended up like this? She was vac-suited, so had obviously meant to be in the main bay, presumably at Si's request. But to then get trapped in the doors? They didn't move that fast, wasn't like you could trip and fall into them. Fuller shook his head, then filed this in the increasingly large part of his head now dedicated to 'odd goings on'. However, for the time being he needed to get the doors open. Keep your mind on the current task, Gumelar drilled in to them; getting sidetracked gets you killed. 
There wasn't an obvious way to open the doors from the outside. Made sense from a security perspective he figured. However, being on the outside made him less cautious with regards to use of weaponry. The tac-suit housed a few micro-missiles similar to what the drones were currently lobbing at them. Fired from point blank range, there wouldn't be much of the door left. However, nor would there be much of him left. Fired from further away would work, but the force of the missile firing would also send him tumbling into Europa's atmosphere. 
Time to get creative.  
A few commands into the tac suit interface and it regurgitated a micro-missile, which now drifted in front of him. Only a palm's width in length, these little fellas could never the less do some serious damage. Fuller carefully used his manipulator claws to pull off the snubbed nose cone, where the guidance and basic electronic defence systems were located. If people like Si could get past the electronic defence then a handy offensive weapon suddenly turned in to you wearing a bomb vest. Not pleasant. The tail end of the missile was removed next, containing the propellant and small rocket. This just left the highly explosive and highly volatile central core. 
A bead of sweat ran down onto Fuller's nose as he ever so carefully pulled it apart.
After a little while he had four pieces of material floating in front of his tac-suit. Ever so gently, he positioned them on the four hinges of the two big doors. If he gripped them too hard with the manipulator claws then they'd explode. With them precariously wedged in place, Fuller moved back up the side of the hull, back to the piece of damaged shielding he'd gripped on to before. Given that it had peeled away from the ship a little, hanging from it gave him a better angle on the hull doors. The suit computed firing solutions on the four hinges, the motors in the arm joints would quickly move the vector cannon slung under his left arm into the positions needed. All Fuller had to do was select the fire command.

He did.


****

Regaining consciousness while floating in zero g was an odd sensation; the feeling of free-fall was like someone had tipped you from bed and out of the side of a plane. Brook came to, therefore, with a start. She instinctively thrashed about for a second or two, trying to find purchase, trying to make sense of her predicament. All she succeeded in doing was bumping into some of the pieces of wreckage that were drifting about her. 
Her ears rang, her vision was blurred, red spots swam in front of her eyes. Everywhere hurt. She tried to get some kind of situation report, but all augments came back as offline. Must have been a hell of a bang. Trying to get her bearings manually, she glanced around. Light was cast by the still hot edges of the blast zone, her suit lights extinguished in the explosions. 
She briefly cycled suit power off and on, to see if it brought back any of the lights. It didn't, but it did bring with it some of the basic suit functionality. Oxygen was venting from somewhere, but the rate of loss was decreasing. This meant at least the smart material the suit was made of was refilling whatever hole had been ripped. But it also meant the suit had been pierced in an as yet unknown number of places, presumably by shrapnel.
The red spots also now made sense; blood droplets in the zero g. 
Brook tried to send a prep request to the medical bay, get it to send a triage drone over to the airlock to meet and assess her. No link. Either the AI was still playing up or her augmentations had been damaged. Or both. For now her only indication of her medical condition were the number of red blobs floating in front of her. Worryingly, she assessed that the number had increased since she came round. 
Ok, so she was alone on this one. Time to come up with a plan. First of all it would be quite handy to know where abouts in the main-bay she actually was. Looking around Brook found herself surrounded by wreckage, which made pinpointing a location hard. She pushed what looked like the severed leg off one of the marines' drones. This sent her slowly in drifting in the other direction, bumping through some smaller fragments.
She wasn't travelling all that quickly, but it still hurt when she collided with the hull wall, pain shooting down her left arm and into the shoulder as she tried to fend off the collision. It took a couple of moments of deep breathing for the pain to subside to a more bearable level. She made a mental note not to use her left arm again if possible; the number of red blobs had notably increased. As well as this being alarming in its own right, it was also beginning to seriously affect her vision out of the vac-suit face plate.   
The one piece of good news was that she was at least on the hull side where Si's drones were located. She could see the storage stacks that contained them, and while there was some charring at the top edges, the structure of them appeared to be intact. Ok, time to try and get the doors open. With one arm and half blind. And she'd lost her crowbar. Using the wall as a sort of climbing frame, she clambered her way towards the large double doors located down at the bottom of the stacks. 
Something was poking out of the doors. She couldn't quite make out what it was - the blood was getting in the way no matter how she positioned her head - some kind of obstruction in the door mechanism. Need to get closer. Jumping over to the drone stacks gave he a slightly better angle of vision on the doors. And the, er, ARE THOSE LEGS?! Brook tried to get a little closer. 
And once again, everything turned to hell. 
The pressure wave from the explosions span Brook around and sent her crashing back into the storage stacks where she became wedged between one of the drones and some of the pipes linking it into the ship's resupply system. This time she remained conscious, the explosions weren't as violent as before and the piping provided her with some cushioning. However, given the fresh wave of new pain, Brook kind of wished that she had been knocked out. Despite a large part of her wanting to stay where she was and maybe have a snooze, Brook began the slow process of untangling herself and getting back to the doors. 
The doors that were currently being ripped off their hinges by some kind of drone monster. 
Brook couldn't see the machine very well, yet more blood in the visor, but it was definitely trying to get in. Presumably sent by other ship to circumvent any defence that Si could mount, once inside it would be able to cause havoc. If only that sodding spyder was around now, they might be able to fend it off. But with the AI on the blink, it was up to her. 
And granddad's crowbar. 
The crowbar was slowly drifting in front of the stack she'd just about extracted herself from, between her and the intruder. Brook was tired, and in pain. But she was also angry. Almost without thinking she pushed off the stack with as much force as her legs could manage. Collecting the crowbar in mid-flight she hefted it into her right hand, pulled it back behind her head and brought it down on the intruder with as much force as she could muster. 
"What the hell?" the intruder's surprised voice was broadcast over the short wave coms link and picked up by Brook's suit. 
Her momentum had slammed her into the side of the intruder, winding her and sending a wave a pain so bad it sent her dizzy. In the confusion she would almost swear that the voice sounded familiar. One of the machine's articulated arms swung round, manipulator claw grabbing her suit and peeling her off. She dangled in front of it. The machine looked familiar to her, but she was still dizzy. She swung the crowbar at it, ineffectually though, as the arm held her too far away from the its body.  
"Brook?" the machine broadcast.
"GET. OFF. ME." this time she threw the crowbar, it bouncing off the front armour of the machine. Hang on, is that a tac-suit?
"Brook, it's me, Fuller"
"Fuller? Really? I thought you were from the other ship"
"So you attacked me with a crowbar?!" 
"Er, I guess. Didn't really think"
"Are you ok? We can't trace you on any of the systems?" the other manipulator claw had been moved up to her shoulder, the one that had grabbed by the scruff of the neck moving across to her other shoulder so that Fuller could move her about to inspect her suit. 
"My augments went down when we got hit. Only got basic suit functionality."
"You hurt? What's that across your visor?" 
"I'm ok."
"Uh-huh, well we'll get you checked out once we've got the drones free. Take this while I finish off the doors" Fuller let her go, deftly grabbed the nearby crowbar - he was getting a lot of practise with the manipulator claws today - and passed in back to Brook. 
"What was that blocking the doors?" Brook asked as Fuller turned away from her.
"Er, nothing. Best you go a bit further away while I finish this"
Brook was too tired to notice him ducking the question, instead pulling herself back onto the drone stack. She watched Fuller work, the tac-suit enhancements strong enough for him to be able to pull the damaged doors off what remained of their hinges. Within a couple of minutes the doors were drifting off into space, and the drones were unshackled. 
"Ok Si" Fuller broadcast via his coms augment and short wave so that Brook could listen in her suit "The doors are open, you're ladies are good to go"
"Perfect" replied Si, the panic of before no longer evident
             "It's time to hit back"