Obsidian Command

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Under a Rock: Wackamole

Posted on 10 Jun 2021 @ 11:06am by Commander Calliope Zahn & Commander Bruce Kensforth

Mission: M2 - Sanctuary
Location: Loki System- outer ring
Timeline: MD06 0400 following Under a Rock: Voilà
2812 words - 5.6 OF Standard Post Measure

Five more fighters began emerging from their holds since the three so far had only managed a glancing shot off the port side. Bruce’s odds of dancing around the weapons fire just took a turn for the worse. He tried to fly in close to the nearest fighter and draw an enemies fire into them, but they were on to that game and weren’t going to make stupid mistakes. They answered his attempt by landing five solid hits against the Seventeen, the last of which sent their tail spinning with a small explosion.

“Secondary oxygenation tank,” Bruce shook his head, recovering their flight path and rolling the ship like a merry-go-round as he dove down and away from the pack of fighters. It worked for the moment. “Let’s not lose the main one, eh?”

Normally venting Plasma overflow was a couple of seconds to just drop open the casing hatch and let space take care of it. But some of the release mechanisms were damaged and not responding. Calliope hit the edge of the console as if kicking the machine would unstick it. “The release vent is frozen in a partial position. I need more time.”

“Well that’s not going to-,” he started to say, banking hard into an oncoming fighter so close that the shot he’d made ripped right underneath the Seventeen. It didn’t hit the fighter on their tail, but both the oncoming and pursuing fighter pilots overcompensated trying to dodge one another and collided. The impact wasn’t enough to destroy either, but one lost power and listed away into open space.

Calliope was white knuckled gripping the edge of the console and whooped. “That is some finely coordinated ballet.” She rubbed the spittle off her face with her sleeve and chuckled in a series of steps down with relief.

“Ah bloody hell… that’s two more,” Bruce groaned, watching two more blips appear on the screen.

“More? Two more?” Calliope groaned.

“How long on that nacelle?”

“Fffffff.. it’s… that long!” Calliope said with frustration, and held out her hands in a mock representation of a rough estimate. “The computer doesn’t know. I’m just watching this meter! If I try and ionize it with the plasma still there it’ll completely burn out.”

“Look you’re not going to lik-,” he started once more, his statement interrupted by another successful hit, this time to their ventral section as he tried to roll. Transporters winked out on the terminal. “Right, screw this!” he barked and without another word, he nosedived the Seventeen towards the rock and pressed the impulse drive forward.

Calliope would have screamed but she was fully concentrating on the feeling of her stomach dropping. She waved a hand slapping at his shoulder, reflexively trying to make the quickly building acceleration stop. “Bruce! Bruce, what are you doing?”

“You get that nacelle back online and I’ll smear as many of them against the inside of this cavern as I can.”

“You said we’d barely fit in there!”

“Yeah, well, we either risk scratching the paint so you can get that nacelle back online, or we stay out here and get shot to pieces. My money’s on the caverns. We know there’s more than one way out, we just gotta gamble they’re not waiting for us on the exit we choose.”

“Wack-a-mole?” She closed her eyes for a moment so she wouldn’t have to watch the dizzying dive into the cavern. “And we’re the mole?!”

“Unless you got a hand phaser you want to stick out a window we don’t have any choice here!” Bruce said, the distance between them and the nearest cavern opening closing fast. There were a series of them all right next to one another, and he was heading for the largest one. But their friends in the fighters weren’t dense, they could see the maneuver and were racing to cut him off, and force him to have to make a frantic shift giving them time to fire on him. Two were closing on the left, one on the right and one above. The latest two were hurrying to the opening itself.

“Ready for this?” he asked, looking over at Calliope. He smiled, appearing far calmer than should have been humanly possible. He gave her a playful wink and then slammed the thrusters full reverse and banked hard to starboard, flashing under the fighter trying to corral them on that side and diving immediately into a different cavern. It was a hard maneuver, made even harder by the fact that this runabout wasn’t a fighter and wasn’t quite as maneuverable. But he got the desired effect. He just didn’t tell his co-pilot he’d skimmed the edge of the cavern by less than a few inches. “That should buy us twenty to thirty seconds,” he said, adjusting their course in the cavern and pushing their speed forward.

With all of the whipping around, Calliope was having trouble focusing her vision and didn’t answer him at first with any more than measured, controlled inhaling and exhaling. It was the meter, just the one meter. Afraid she might pass out if this kept up, she set an automated sequence so that when the meter hit zero, it would trigger the ion flush. “It’s down to half,” she managed to say. She worked on another avenue for the plasma release. If she used the forward filter chamber and trapped some of the plasma it would reduce the load. They only needed a short jump, so the damage the plasma would do to the chamber was someone else’s problem for later. She reached to the top of the control board and pulled some safeties off and the reading fell to twenty-three percent. While the computer buzzed some safety alarms over the misuse of the filter chamber, Calliope kept thinking about another way to pocket the plasma or release it faster.

The cavern was every bit as tight of a fight as he’d expected it would be. The proximity alarms were screaming at him, but he ignored them - he needed his focus on the flying and couldn’t afford the split second to turn them off. The manuevers were tight, sometimes minute, other times substantial but they were moving so fast he didn’t have time to think about anything else. Yet, despite the tension, the fact that he could see the sensor blips of the fighters trying to follow, and the occasional random lance of disruptor fire (that did more to slow them down than cause him trouble), he was grinning like a Cadet. Bruce hadn’t had this much fun flying in a long time. Granted, he would have preferred to be in something a bit smaller and more maneuverable, but he was taking their size differential as a challenge. He was looking forward to bragging to the pilots on the station about this maneuver. Running an arrow class runabout near to three-quarters impulse through a twisting turning system of caverns within an asteroid and living to tell the tale. Just thinking about that made him grin even wider.

The cavern opened up suddenly into a three way split: left, right and down. He banked to the left, waited for the fighters to commit and then slammed thrusters full reverse and dodged downwards. They flashed past the cockpit as he dodged down. Both managed to avoid him, but one overcompensated and crashed into the wall of the cavern in a ball of compressed flame and debris.

“Well, that’s one,” Bruce grinned over at Calliope. “Think DeHavilland will let me paint a kill mark on the hull,” he joked, returning his attention to navigating the slightly wider, but far more twisty cavern he’d committed to. In reality, he’d chosen this cavern long before they’d got to the fork. He was counting on the lack of skill on his companions’ part to work to his advantage. At worst, they’d have to go half his speed to keep up. But at best, they’d refuse to give in and smear themselves against the cavern walls trying to keep up. “How’s that warp drive, looking?”

Calliope was gripping her own harness and wishing she could enjoy the adrenaline every bit as much as Bruce. The illumination of the plume of death briefly flashed through the cockpit and Calliope hoped Bruce's incredible reflexes and luck held out. “Six percent remaining.” She said. “It’s close. Real close. Guessing, another ten seconds, plus twenty for the ion flush?” She burped and then griped, “Wish they’d loaded the torpedo payload.” She looked at the damaged transporter. It was a simple power break. Without thinking too much about it, she redirected the circuit and it came back online. “I have an idea,” she told the driver while she reached up to unhook her harness.

“I’m all ears,” Kensforth answered, rotating the ship slightly left and then hard vertical, dropping back down again after a short stint, traversing the z-shape in the cavern. Somehow their pursuer managed to follow, though there was a healthy distance now.

“What you said, about shooting out of the window?” She flung open the weapons locker at their feet to take stock.

He glanced quickly down at the locker and was back on task, “Long as it doesn’t kill flight characteristics, I’m game.”

She came up with two phaser rifles and stripped the power units, then gauged the distance between herself and the transporter pad in the back. Calliope turned the grav grid back on with power from life support. She slowed her breathing with a stupid ass mantra from meditation with Walker while she made an educated guess of Bruce’s upcoming maneuvers and did some quick math. “Take the straighter one this time,” she told him, setting the phasers to a timed overload. The now-bombs emitted an unnerving earsplitting whine.

With the gravity field back on her stomach wanted to stage a new revolt. It could be mad at her later. Like everyone else. Calliope stumbled into the back and set the overloading power packs on the transporter pad, then did her best to race those few strides back, zigzagging in dives between things to grasp onto. To her relief, she found Bruce had taken her direction and they were in the length of tunnel without any curvature ahead. It would make them a fish in a barrel if her plan failed.

Two exploding phasers would just bounce off enemy shields. But the rock itself wasn’t going to give her the same trouble. She located a pocket in the wall of the tunnel ahead and, forward shields being devoted to their hind quarters for the moment anyway, engaged the transporters to plant the destructive force there. “This exit is closed for repairs,” she said as they passed it and she estimated the time-out.

Rear shields registered the debris about the same time that the plasma dump pinged a happy note. Calliope was thankful she’d set the ionization to start automatically, sparing herself the need to engage it manually as she was re-securing her harness instead. “Almost online! Can you get us clear of the rock?”

He pointed to the map of the rock hovering in holo over the center of the console between them that he’d been following, “One down behind us, but cue the whackamole,” he said, gesturing to the three likely outlets of the tunnels. Scans were showing that they wouldn’t be alone when they got out. “By my count, that leaves one on our six and five to cover those three exits,” he smiled mischievously.

“Those are terrible odds! Why are you grinning like the cat with the canary?” Kensforth was insane, and it was his most endearing quality, Calliope decided.

Ahead was the final break in the chamber, where the choices were one of three forks up and out and a secondary tunnel below them that led back the way they’d come, skipping a fair bit of the windy tunnel to get back to the entrance - eventually. Thankfully their pursuers hadn’t been smart enough to take the faster path, instead following him. It was a back pocket gamble, but it looked like it was paying off.

“So when I was a kid, I used to fly my dad’s old Stearman bi-plane,” Bruce began, smirking as he told the story, “Used to love flying that thing. Man she could really cook,” he mused, shaking his head as a flood of old memories paraded across his mind. “There was this one turn that I used to love doing in that old bird. Made you feel truly weightless,” he said, glancing over at her and giving her a wink. “It’s called a hammerhead, turn. Watch and learn.”

The cavern opened up and already their pursuer was closing the distance. Bruce quickly selected the uppermost tunnel, ignoring the fact that of the five waiting craft on the other side, three were waiting by this tunnels exit. Their pursuer didn’t seem to know that and as soon as the tunnel opened up a bit, the disruptor fire started again. In the center of this mass of rotating rock, they had some modicum of gravity. Enough that they could feel it pulling their backs gently as they went up. Just short of the opening that led up, Bruce did the unthinkable. He killed the engine.

Seventeen seemed to freeze in mid-space and the pursuing vessel dodged past them in that brief moment before the small bit of gravity took hold. He angled the nose and they rotated flatly, nose down now and fell towards the center mass of the rock. With the turn complete, Bruce pushed the throttle forward and rushed back through the faster passage beneath the one they’d just come through - going back the way they’d come.

He looked over to her, grinning like a schoolboy, “By the time they figure out we changed directions, we should be at the mouth of the tunnel. Quick jump and then we’ll come back with the cavalry.”

“In time for tea.” Calliope marveled. The nacelle came back online in the readouts and Calliope reopened plasma to the manifold. Compression built and a series of go lights re-illuminated on the board. “Should be enough juice for a quick hop.” There was no need to charge it like they were going to Alpha Centauri or anything. Besides, the plasma still trapped in the forward filtration chamber would ignite and fuse the engine in seconds.

Bruce pointed to the holo. The little blips were moving. “They’re on to us, but it’s too late,” he grinned. Within seconds they could see open space beyond the cavern and were closing the distance fast. They’d leave the cavern a full minute before their pursuers could come around, and they’d left their tail in the turn. “Standby for warp,” he declared, plotting the course. He literally hovered his hand over the engage command button, snapping his head left and right to make sure they’d cleared the cavern, giving them enough space to form a warp bubble. “... almost…” he said, “Now!” he cried, slamming the button.

The Seventeen shot forward into Warp, holding a steady Warp Four for ten seconds before the entire warp assembly fused and went offline. They dropped out to sunlight firmly in Obsidian Command’s operational zone. They were on a scope now in the starbase’s CIC. If any of their new friends decided to pursue, the two of them wouldn’t be alone with them for very long.

“Stay out of trouble, you said. Nothing super-secret, you said,” Bruce grinned at his co-pilot. “You my friend, owe me a large bottle of scotch. Two if Doctor Walker’s not to know about this little… adventure,” he laughed.

Calliope hiccuped. “I think,” she said before another hiccup insisted. “You should give the sit-rep.” There was a thin cloud of smoke throughout the cabin and the computer was having multiple error alerts all at once, logging it's complaint about the systems abuse it had suffered.

He just beamed as OC grew larger and larger in the distance, “Well, we’ll muster who we can to go have a look at our new friends. But, my guess is, by the time we get there they’ll all be long gone.”

“Don’t you worry.” She failed to resist another hiccup, laughing and rolling her head back into the rest. “I know where we can find more.”


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