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Fire in the Hole!

The group is shown back to the same conference room they were in before. Terry simply holds the door open for them so they can file in -- he's talking on his communicator and doesn't even look in as he hastily informs someone that Group 3 is back in the conference room now, he'll be there in just a moment, hold on! He nods perfunctorily to everyone, with an apologetic expression, then dashes off.

    TAG: The Conference Room
    This rectangular room contains a heavy, glossy wood table, with seats for ten arranged around its oblong length. One of the long walls is covered with white boards, and there is a television monitor recessed in to one of the short walls. Beneath the TV is a cabinet which contains a sound system and video player, and next to that a set of sliders to control the lights in the room. On the table appropriate power and video hookups for portable computers are handy if need be, as are power and network connections. A video camera sits on top of the monitor, part of a video conferencing system, and there is a speakerphone in the middle of the table.

The room is, of course, unchanged... except for a file which looks like it was tossed hastily on the table. Some of the papers within have half slid out, including what looks like a bit of a newspaper clipping.

Kerry skrees, "Well, that was exciting..."

Vash says, "Hm. This again... playing games with us."

Kerry skrees, "Looks like it. Let's see what we have this time." He picks up the file, looking for security markings; finding none, he opens it and looks at the newspaper clipping. "Hmmm..."

The front page says only 'GATE UPDATES.' Stapled to it is a short (a few pages only) report titled "The RT Attempts." The newspaper clipping is a short, cheery puff piece about the Republic of Texas team that went out to try the Gate a few months ago. Included in the article is a grainy news-photo of 3 smiling, tall, waving, happy looking humans with vaguely airport-like stuff behind them.

Vash leans over Kerry's shoulder, muttering to himself. "Kerry, mind if I had a look at that report?" Kerry hands Vash the folder, muttering in the higher registers, while looking more closely at the photo. Vash blows out his breath through his nose, leafing through the report. "I'm getting a bit tired of these coy little hints they're dropping on us."

The photo is probably at Houston, since that's Texas' space mission gateway port. There are 3 Texans in the forefront of the photo, smiling and waving in the sunshine. It's rather romantic, in a human way... two of the men have women clinging to them, and the last one is getting a kiss from another woman. Behind them, from the shaggy silhouettes, you'd guess there are uplifts loading the sleek, gleaming shuttle.

Kerry mutters in irritation at the poor quality photo. "Don't see how the humans can work with these !ee* things. I don't think I know any of them, but how are you supposed to tell without a proper image?" The photo would probably be fairly clear to a human. It's not terribly helpful to Kerry though. Vash glances out of the corner of his eye at the photo, then turns his attention back to the report. He's not sure how he feels about that. It's cute, in the way a lot of PR propaganda is... on the other hand, he doesn't like feeling like someone's houseboy. He's not a porter. None of us are.

The report is dated today. In dry, emotionless bureaucratese it discusses the first Texas mission which took off about 6 months ago. It has apparently returned but not been publicly announced. None of the human crew returned, but the one uplift did. Unfortunately he's quite mad, babbling and raving in terror about hearts and blood. However, the hold was packed full of uncut rough diamonds... and this is why the second Texas team has been sent out a few months ago. The news clipping is of this second team.

Vash blinks, once. "Ffffffuck. I hope they're screwing with us..."

Kerry peers over Vash's elbow at the report. "Most curious. Does it say anything else about the surviving uplift? What species?"

Vash says, "Hold on, I'm looking. I'm hoping this is another little head-game the Group is playing on us." The uplift was a coyote male, but there's no word as to his ultimate fate. Vash nods, slowly. "Yeah... coyote." He says it to sound like kai-oat. "Wonder where they're keeping the poor guy..."

There's a tap on the door, then it opens, revealing a smiling and very relieved looking Terry, "Hi! Okay, one of the previous engineers has agreed to run twice for you -- so I won't have to play engineer." He blinks once as he sees the paperwork in everyone's hands -- then literally blanches, darting forward and gabbling nervously, "Goodnessgracious how could I have left that here let me get that I'm SO sorry!" He almost tears the paperwork from uplift hands, stuffing it hastily back into the folder -- then seems to get hold of himself again, taking a deep breath. "Er. Right. Well... let's go, shall we?" He turns about and leaves quickly, leading everyone back to the simulators at a brisk walk.

Kerry shrugs at Vash and follows Terry out of the conference room... Vash walks just behind and to the left of Terry, almost over his shoulder. VERY close to him. "Terry... about that report."

Terry is almost hugging the report to his chest, walking very fast, and at Vash's question he starts talking with almost forced cheer, fast and a little loud, "Well, I bet you're all impatient to get going, yes? So sorry about all the waiting -- but I think we've got everything cleared up now!" He keeps talking about inconsequentialities a bit loudly, almost desperately, right up into the simulator. The report is handed off smoothly to Anne, sitting at her desk, who raises her eyebrows, opens her mouth... then sees the look on Terry's face and says nothing. She simply quietly tucks the report into her desk and goes back to her computer. Kerry is barely able to keep up with the taller human, and has no chance to do anything but wonder to himself if Terry can really be that incompetent.

    TAG: The Simulator
    You are aboard a ship simulator, mounted on large hydraulic lifts to provide a touch of realism. Unlike the big military ones that are mounted on gimbals and can spin in any direction, this one can only move through a limited range of motions.

    There are three "cabins" in this simulator, connected via hatches, and a couple of short stretches of hallway. The bridge, which has a full complement of controls and readouts, is where the ship is normally flown from. Engineering, which has large banks of what look like engines and power plant controls (most of which can simulate failure), can also fly the ship if need be. There is also a cramped medical bay with a primitive autodoc and a complete surgery.

    The bridge and medical bay are on the upper deck, with the bridge forward and medical aft, and engineering is the entire second deck. The hallway between the bridge and medical has a hatch down to engineering, and an airlock to get outside the "ship."

Vash smiles, just a little, and grins out from under his browplate at Terry as he shoulders his way past into the simulator. "Protocols, Terry. Protocols." He says nothing else as he makes his way down the proverbial hatch, but shakes his head. He's either a very good actor, or a fucking quisling. Either way... it's in bad taste.

Terry looks terribly relieved at Vash's words. He settles into his chair, squinting in the dimness, "Well now! I can give you your briefing when you're all ready."

Kerry settles himself into the pilot's station of the simulator, switching the bridge lights off, taking off his goggles, and making sure the systems are set for holosonic displays. Vash taps a claw tip against his lips thoughtfully as he seats himself behind the pilot. He leans forward a bit, as if to say something to Kerry, then thinks better of it and sinks back into his seat. Quisling. Definitely. That was NOT an open color code. Shit, shit, shit. Maybe have to talk to Kerry about this when we get out of here...

The small vixen heads back into medical for a bit, and the large cougar into engineering... and a few moments later they gather near the cockpit to hear Terry's briefing. Terry waits while everyone gets belted in and adjusts controls, fidgeting somewhat. When they all look to be ready he explains, "There have been reports that one of the local asteroids contains a lot of radioactives, but no really good reports of which one. The company has gotten a report of which one it may be, and wants you to go out and scan the asteroid to see if it's worth mining."

Kerry nods. "I think that's where we were when we were interrupted last time."

Vash says, "Sounds fairly routine."

Terry continues, "All you need to do is fly around the asteroid and scan it well to determine the concentration, if any, of radioactives." He nods to Kerry and adds, "The co-ordinates for the asteroid are there in the navigational systems already." He looks at Vash and answers, "It should be straightforward." Addressing everyone, he asks, "Are there any other questions?"

Kerry chuckles. "Oh, sure. Simulator missions always sound routine." Vash just grins at Terry, with a look that says, Uh huh. I gotcha now. Kerry calls up the coordinates and spends a few minutes to plot a course. "Okay... Engineering, are you go?"

"Engin*crackle*ing go." There's a pause, then, "Drat. I'll work o*crackle* later."

Vash says, "That didn't sound too clean. We having a comm problem?"

Kerry winces at the static. "Engineering is go. Life support, are we go?"

Sakura answers crisply and promptly, "Life support is go, pilot-san."

Vash says, "You up, helm?"

Terry settles down in an unused chair, watching and listening, for the moment, staying out of the way. Kerry skrees, "Thank you, Miss Sakura. Pilot is go. Captain, all systems are go, and we are prepared to depart as soon as we have clearance from the station."

Vash says, "Alright then. When you're ready, Kerry."

Kerry twitches a wingtip. "Pilot has the conn." He flips the mike switch. "Station, this is Virtual Aurora, requesting permission to depart on bearing 250 theta 7."

The com-system bleeps, and a tinny voice announces, "Virtual Aurora, this is Traffic Control. You are next in queue; you may depart as soon as the mining ship Iron Giant has cleared the lanes. Please proceed to your hangar exit and be ready." Under its breath, the comm adds, "Unlike the Iron Giant was."

Vash takes control of a backup console, and takes a few moments to familiarize himself. He touches the comm, "Medical, in light of... previous encounters, I want to leave you as free as possible. I'll manage the scan for this run."

Sakura's voice across the intercom is quiet and calm, "Certainly, captain-san." Vash grins a little, and double-checks to make certain he's got the procedure straight in his head. No hitches, his crew is going to ace this. Captain. I'm never going to get used to that.

Kerry skrees, "Proceeding to hangar exit, Traffic Control." The bat manipulates the controls, and the screens show the ship's simulated movement across the docks. Kerry's deft piloting is also echoed by gentle tips of the floor and shakes of the room, as the simulator does its best to mirror the effect of thrusters with mere hydraulics. As the ship waits at the hangar exit, the huge bulk of the Iron Giant can be seen, lumbering its way slowly away from the station -- an ancient and likely near-derelict monster. Its small navigational engines are burning at full thrust to move it far enough away from the station to fire its main drive.

After a long, slow burn, the Iron Giant begins a lumbering turn, apparently past the station lanes. Traffic control comes across, confirming, "Virtual Aurora, you are go."

Kerry skrees, "Thank you, Traffic Control. Departing as soon as the freighter clears our flight space. In 30..."

Vash hmms. "Helm, I'm seeing..." He squints a bit. "Looks like fuel leakage from the Giant up ahead. Why don't we give her some space... just to be safe."

Kerry stabs a cancellation code into the computer. "Traffic Control, be advised we are holding position. Our scanners are showing fuel leakage from Iron Giant."

Over the comm, Traffic Control says, "Thank you, Virtual Aurora," and begins advising another craft to use a different landing vector.

Vash touches the comm. "Iron Giant, this is Virtual Aurora. We're seeing fuel leakage on your port side maneuvering engines... please be advised."

The Iron Giant's comm then comes on, someone shouting at an open pick-up in a noisy chaotic environment. "Yeah, Virtual Aurora, we just noticed it too. We're on it. Iron Giant out." There is at least one siren running, and someone shouting something at someone else in the background.

Vash says dryly, "That does not sound promising."

Kerry skrees, "No, it doesn't." He nudges the controls, edging the Aurora to the most protected edge of the departure lane.

Vash leans forward and touches the comm again, "Iron Giant, do you require assistance?"

Outside, the displays show the Iron Giant's engines flickering completely out, followed by all its other lights for a long moment. Finally its internal lights and running lights do come back on, although its engines don't.

Traffic control advises, "Virtual Aurora, you should be clear to depart, if you keep away from the Iron Giant."

Vash touches the pilot's shoulder, "Just a sec, Kerry."

Finally a statically and somewhat resigned, "Nah, we got it, Virtual Aurora. Happens all the time," comes back from the Iron Giant.

Kerry toggles the radio back on. "Thank you, Traffic Control. Virtual Aurora departing in 30..."

Vash nods, not exactly satisfied with that answer under the circumstances. "Copy that, Iron Giant. We're on our way out, good luck to you. Virtual Aurora out." He nods, "Okay, Kerry. Hit it."

"...2... 1..." The automatics take over and start the Aurora on her path as programmed.

Vash says, "Could just be me, Mr. Skydancer, and feel free to chalk this up to a lack of aerospace experience, but... 'Happens all the time' is just not something I wanna hear in connection with maneuvering engines." He slumps back in his seat a bit and smirks over at the bat.

Kerry skrees, "Not with leaks in the fuel feed, no. Keep one ear on that hulk, I'd suggest."

Vash says, "Already have done. That one makes me nervous."

Terry watches the screens, nodding quietly, and listening to the comm chatter on his headset. As the Virtual Aurora smoothly departs, the Iron Giant apparently tries to restart its engines. There is a tremendous flash, as all of the leaked fuel suddenly ignites, although the fireball does bleed in to the Iron Giant's engines. One of its rocket housings manages to break loose and is propelled with the force of the explosion, crashing in to the station very near the hangar. Even before the station can get on the comm a somewhat chagrined voice comes over, saying, "Whups." That's all they get out before the station manages to tell them exactly what it thinks of their old ship, and that they're very likely going to lose any semblance of a license they ever had for it...

Kerry skrees, "!ee* ####'k!**"

Vash shudders at the impact, but can't hold back a snicker at the communiqué. "Diosmio." He touches the intraship com. "Hell of an impact, yeah? All stations, check in." He knows he shouldn't be smiling, but for some reason he can't help himself.

"Engin*crackle*king on the *crackle*ything else is fine, though."

"Life support is go, captain-san."

Kerry frowns and scans his telltales. "Say again, Engineering?"

Vash says, "Damn, that's annoying..."

"I said I'm wor*crackle* on the comm-!*crackle*"

Kerry skrees, "Got it that time, Engineering. Thank you."

Vash says, "Command copies, all stations. Thanks." Terry gets up, and heads aft, apparently to peek in at the others.

At that moment the connecting door opens and Doug's voice calls up the central connecting hallway, "Darnit! Engineering is fine -- I was just trying to... oh, sorry..." The door closes again.

Vash turns over his shoulder and watches Terry go. When he's sure there's a couple bulkheads between them, he leans over Kerry's shoulder and speaks very, very softly, nearly subvocalizing. "Gotta talk to you about Terry when we get clear."

Kerry nods, and replies equally quietly. "Roger that, Your Nebulosity."

Vash says, "Later for that. Got something here..." He leans over the console, attempting to get a better fix on the scanner. "There's... something... here by the Iron Giant... or what's left of her. Can't tell if it's debris... it doesn't LOOK like debris... lookahere. Tell me what you think."

The Iron Giant's beleaguered engineering crew once again performs the miracle and gets her engines to light, which bleeds all sorts of interference across the scanners. She resumes her turn and moves again towards the asteroid fields to mine, generally the same direction the Virtual Aurora is. Vash says, "Madre. They actually resuscitated it. Maybe when she moves out of the way here..."

Kerry skrees, "I think I don't like that barge on the same heading we are. What say we have a detour in our flight plan, Captain?"

Vash says, "I think you're right, helm. I'll notify control. Keep an ear to that direction... there's something over there." He adds, "Control, this is Virtual Aurora. We are modifying our flight path, heading zero-zero-one-nine, to give the damaged Giant some breathing room." Kerry turns the Aurora end on to the Giant, minimizing her chance of being hit if something else happens, and prepares to go to full drive as soon as the ship reaches the necessary distance from the station. Vash grins a bit under his breath. "Bet you those poor bastards in the hangar wish THEY could say that..."

Control replies via comm, "Acknowledged, Virtual Aurora. Probably wise."

Kerry keeps an eye on the scanners, just in case something comes through that would identify Vash's mysterious detection. Vash says, "All stations, stay frosty. Our neighbor here has proven unpredictable... let's not get caught unaware."

"Roge*crackle*rnit!"

Sakura's quiet voice affirms, "Roger, pilot-san."

Both the uplifts in the helm see, at about the same time, at least two very small, steadily burning hot spots on the scanner coming towards the Aurora. Vash sits up a bit. "Kerry, you see that?"

Kerry skrees, "!ee* !#*t'kee!#" He's already punching emergency codes into the console to take the Aurora to her maximum acceleration. "All stations, prepare for evasive action! Vampire, vampire, vampire!!"

Vash says, "We got incoming, people, stand by! Control, this is Virtual Aurora we're reading two incoming hotspots, heading zero-zero-zero, repeat ZERO-ZERO-ZERO, do you copy?"

Sakura's voice is a bit startled, but she replies readily, "Copy, captain-san!"

The simulator jolts as Kerry feeds simulated full power into the engines. "Vash, can you do something with the comm maser? Might be able to burn one of them out if it's a radar seeker."

Vash takes a breath, and pulls communications control to his console. "I'll see what I can do... I don't know that we'll have time..."

On the scanners, the hotspots fall away for a moment, as the Aurora responds to Kerry's demands on it, but only for a moment. They seem to redouble their speed, and zero in on the fleeing shuttle. Douglas sounds pleased, "Got it! It's fixe- er... oh dear! Roger that, captain!"

Vash says, "Engineering, if you can get us any more power, do it NOW!" He adds, "We've got issues here, Kerry, someone's jamming our comm. We're on our own."

Kerry skrees, "No way we can out-accelerate a missile... try something else." He punches more commands, to turn the ship to put the missiles -- if that's what they are -- directly behind the drive units. "No surprise. Now, with a little luck we'll cook them in our own drive as the little beggars come in."

Vash works feverishly at the console, "Hey, you never know, maybe our friend there's a miracle worker. Besides, if you're doing what I think you're doing... bigger drive field the better, yeah?"

The engines suddenly roar in response to Kerry's piloting, and with a violent jolt the shuttle accelerates -- and spins almost wildly as he rolls it -- engineering's given him all the power it can. Kerry skrees, "!ee* !ee* !ee* !ee*" and fights to regain control of the ship, all the while wondering how they suddenly had so much acceleration available?

Sakura says calmly over the intercom, "Captain-san, that was a violent jolt. Is everyone all right, or is medical assistance needed?"

Vash laughs, and grips the sides of the seat. "Hah, you see? I TOLD you he was a miracle worker! All stations, check in!" A moment later he adds, "Shit! Kerry, I've lost those contacts..." He studies the scanner feverishly, adding, "Kerry, check your six, I lost those contacts. Shit."

Kerry skrees, "Working on it. We spun when the cougar dumped all that power into the drive. At least we probably threw off the little beasties."

Douglas's voice comes over the intercom. He sounds just a little bit flustered. "Conn, this is engines. Our 'observer' just hit a wall, I don't know how he is. He might be unconscious, you might want to send down Ms. Sakura. By the way, was that enough power for you?"

Kerry lets Vash answer that, he's still concentrating on regaining his bearings. Vash says, "Nice job, Engineering. Save a little for later next time. Medical, please report to Engineering, looks like we've got an observer down."

Sakura clicks on her comm, "Engines, this is medical. I'm on my way down.." She heads out of medical and towards the engines, stopping to scoop up a portable med-kit on her way.

Vash says, "Well... now that our miracle worker's shot his proverbial wad... looks like it's up to us again."

The engineer's reply sounds a bit dryly wry. "Understood, Conn. Sorry about that. And thank you, Ms. Sakura. Conn, have we got any more wild maneuvers coming up? Can I stop doing to the engine what I had to do to get you that power?"

Kerry skrees, "Not yet, Engineering. We're still being chased by those missiles."

Douglas says, "Understood, Conn. Just so you know, we can keep it up for about... a long time." Sakura comes into Engines and quickly settles herself down next to Terry. She unzips the bag and starts an initial assessment of his condition. Douglas mutters quietly, nodding politely to Sakura as she arrives. He moves to the engineering console to nurse the engines. "How is he, Ms. Sakura?" he asks politely, albeit a little distractedly, eyeing the fuel manifold. Terry is a little pale, and looks genuinely injured... Sakura has the sinking feeling he really did take a tumble. In fact, checking his pupils Sakura can see they're not the same size... looks like a concussion at least.


Vash says, "Contact! Kerry, check it, one-nine-zero-five."

Kerry frowns and initiates a turn, rolling the ship 90 degrees. "What the hey? Got them, Captain. Those aren't missiles, but I still don't trust 'em."

Vash says, "What the hell ARE they? Really BIG spacesuits?" He adds, "All stations, we've resumed contact. Stay frosty, we're not clear yet."

Kerry skrees, "No idea. Unless someone has decided to use Keero commandos in space."

At this point, the comm picks up and everyone gets a brief message, "-terrorists, please try and take the terrorists alive, as the others have escaped! Repeat, Virtual Aurora, this is Station Control. You are being followed by terrorists who...!" and that is all that comes through.

Vash sighs. "Diosmio. Kerry, you have the bridge."

Kerry skrees, "Pilot has the conn. You want to try for them, or keep running?"

Vash begins unstrapping himself. "Keep them running for now... let's try and wear them down. I'm going to the ship's locker." Outside, both of the single-man craft are reorienting on the shuttle again, and moving in closer, one, towards the airlock.


Sakura frowns, "I don't know yet, Douglas-san.." She checks the kit to see if she has something to keep Terry immobilized so she can transfer him safely back to medical. There's plenty of things in engineering that could be used as makeshift stretchers... or one could be fetched from medbay. Sakura does her best to immobilize him so she can dash back up to medical for a stretcher. A moment later she gets Terry onto the stretcher carefully, so she can transfer him back to medical. When she's got him there she'll transfer him to a bed and straps him in, in case of another collision. She clicks on her comm again, "Conn, this is medical. Our observer is in rough shape, but I'm confident that I can help him."


Vash pauses before leaving the cabin, to state, very calmly, "All stations... stand by for boarding. Repeat. Stand by for boarding." He leaves, pushing off for the locker, saying nothing else.

The two, tiny vessels are an incredible power to weight ratio. They are steadily gaining on the small shuttle again. Kerry skrees, "!ee* Engineering, go back to normal power, we're not going to outrun them." He starts doing random shifts in acceleration strength and vector, trying to make it difficult for them to match velocities." The evasive maneuvers don't go off exactly as planned, as one of the little ships veers away from the darting shuttle -- except that the darting shuttle veers into it. The ship reverberates with impact. Kerry shrugs. "Guessed wrong."


Vash braces carefully against the bulkhead as he withdraws a pair of taser weapons from the locker. One of them he tucks in his flightsuit, the other one he unbinds and checks the charge. Good. Make them work for it, Kerry. He pushes off for Medical.

Sakura braces herself against the bed to keep her balance, then goes back to her more careful examination of Terry, specifically around the head/neck region. Vash pokes his head into Medical. He isn't smiling, anymore. "Doctor, I hate to interrupt you, but I need to borrow the dartgun."

Sakura rolls Terry onto his side and quickly braces him there. She grabs gauze pads -- lots of them -- and presses them to the back of Terry's head. "Of course you may, Vash-san. Could you do me one quick favor while you're over there grabbing it?" She motions towards one of the cupboards, "I need one of those bottles of distilled water, if you don't mind too much."

Vash nods. "I gotcha." He rummages quickly through various and sundry medical supplies sealed in plastic, coming up with both the weapon and the water. He passes it quickly to the doctor. "Good luck with him, Doctor. Stay frosty."

Vash lurches with the latest maneuver, and fumbles the dartgun. He dives after it, trying to snatch it before it disappears behind a cabinet. "Damn it... excuse me, Doctor."


Douglas blinks, as with the last vector he regains his balance and sees a splotch on the floor where the observer hit. Uhoh, he thinks. Maybe some of this isn't quite as much a simulation as we'd like. He clicks on the com. "Medical, this is engineering. Your guest may be bleeding -- I'm seeing some blood on the deckplates of my engine room."

Sakura tosses something with a good weight at the comm button to click it, "Thank you for the warning, Engines... I've just discovered his wound." She looks up, "Yes, Vash-san?" She doesn't appear to have noticed anything amiss with Vash. She just smiles at him, then pours fully half of the bottle of water over the back of Terry's head, so she can see what she's up against, if only for a moment.


There is a muffled *klang* against the side of the ship. Moments later the airlock starts to cycle, preparing to open the outside doors. Kerry hits the alert button. "All hands, prepare to repel boarders."


The gun's almost within claw reach... then Kerry's call comes across the comm. Vash thinks, Leave it. I can't take a chance on being ambushed, then says, "Doctora, please stay safe... I have to go. Keep the dartgun for yourself."


Kerry skrees, "Engineering, can you shut down power to the main airlock?"

Douglas acknowledges Sakura's message a little sheepishly, but then he looks up at the sudden sound... and grimaces. "Oh, no, you don't... not my engines, and not on my watch." He looks around for a convenient spanner, and spies the environment controls. "Conn, this is Engines, say the word and I can cut gravity on them if any of us have experience fighting without the comforting pressure of the ground beneath our feet -- right, got that too..."

The airlock chunks healthily, and the cycle starts again, repressurizing the lock. With a quiet whine, the airlock systems shut down, and its status lights go out. Kerry turns the ship and starts back toward the station. If we can keep them locked in there until we're back...

Vash bolts for the main causeway, readying the first taser. He half-crouches by a bulkhead, peeking out with just half of his face to keep his profile low. They're keeping it under control... my turn now. Stay loose... He slaps the nearest public com. "Boarders are entering manually. Clear the main causeway."

Kerry skrees, "Engineering, can you pump the air out of the lock? The door won't open against the pressure if we can keep a vacuum in there."


Terry's eyes open at that point, slowly and blearily. He takes a moment, focusing... then suddenly his whole body goes rigid and he screams in sudden terror, and thrashes madly against the straps, recoiling from the doctor. One of his hands comes free, and as he thrashes he knocks the anesthetic out of Sakura's hand. Sakura, who was kneeling to grab the anesthetic when Terry woke up, jumps a little at his reaction -- clearly she didn't expect him to wake so soon, "Terry, please, calm down! You're safe... I'm not going to hurt you..."


Everyone can hear the screaming coming from medbay, through the door -- it's hair-raisingly terrified. Vash grits his teeth and focuses, bearing down against the bulkhead. Not the most favorable conditions here, he thinks. The airlock doors ratchet apart a notch, a slight whoosh of air as the partly pressurized airlock evens out with the hallway.


Douglas opens his mouth to click on the comm before he hears the hideous screaming. He blinks 'up' in the general direction of the medical center, but Kerry's order comes down. "Ah... roger, Conn, I'll -- dammit! Pressure's been equalized, the inner door's open!"


Sakura steps back to the side of the bed and touches her paw lightly to Terry's forehead. "Please, let me help you. You're just going to hurt yourself more by thrashing around. It's Sakura, Terry. Remember me?" The screaming abruptly stops, although Sakura can see Terry's thrashing has changed to just jerking away violently from her, wide-eyed. He doesn't yet look completely rational. Sakura smiles, "Thank you, Terry-sama. Will you consent to me stopping your bleeding? I'm worried that it won't stop on its own."

Terry stares wide-eyed at Sakura, even the whites of his eyes showing, and slurs, "Y-you... you-www... d-d-doggie... nnno! NO! Sit!"


On the viewscreens, as the shuttle returns to the station, the hulk of the Iron Giant drifts, dark and burnt out. Kerry skrees, "Traffic Control, this is Virtual Aurora. We have one terrorist in our airlock, and he's nearly through. We need military assistance ASAP."


Vash holds perfectly still, claws curled around the taser he has ready. He waits for the first signs of anything to poke from the empty airlock. Come on, then. I'm Vashti Ramos Montoya... and you're fucking DEAD.

A hand appears at the very top of the opening between the doors, and tries to yank the doors open, very quickly, while keeping behind their protection. Vash tenses, just barely. He raises his weapon and inhales. He waits three heartbeats, exhales, and squeezes the trigger. As soon as he sees the sparks where the taser projectile strikes, he drops the weapon and in the same smooth motion, pulls the second and fires into the breach.


Sakura purses her lips and tightens the straps on Terry just a little. "Terry-sama, I'm a fox."

Terry wriggles, although somewhat ineffectually. He seems a little bewildered, "Uhh... t-talking doggie? Dogs don... don't talk...?"

Sakura softens the tone of her voice to a low, soothing whisper, "Terry, will you close your eyes and stop squirming. You're hurt and I want to help you. It's important that I help you. Don't believe everything that your eyes are telling you right now. Just listen to my voice."

Terry stares at Sakura again -- then suddenly sighs softly, closes his eyes, and goes still. He's still tensely rigid... but he's not screaming or thrashing any more. Sakura says, "Thank you Terry. Turn you head to the side for me?"

Terry slurs again, "Thiszz... thiss'zz a bad dream, righ'?" He sounds almost lost... but he turns his head.


The taser shots both strike the spacesuited invader. Nothing immediately happens. Momentarily, wisps of black, burned-smelling smoke drift up out of the suit's electronics package, and a look of surprise and pain crosses the face of the human inside. With a grimace, the human steps out of the airlock and reaches for Vash.

Vash tenses. "Usted es... pedazo hecho de mierda." He braces one foot against the bulkhead and launches himself at the intruder, driving most of his compact bulk for the midsection, hoping to put him off balance and with any luck drop him.


Sakura goes to retrieve the bottle of anesthetic and spreads it over the back of Terry's neck gently. She grabs a kit so that she can begin to stitch the gash up, and keeps Terry talking so he won't fade out on her into a coma. "Terry-sama? Tell me, what's the last thing you remember?"

Terry murmurs, "Uhhh... waszz umm... li'l sist'r's birthday party... she'uzz five..."

Sakura begins the process of stitching, slowly just in case he makes a sudden move, "How old are you now?"

Terry mumbles, "'M sevennn..."

Sakura smiles, "Well, you're doing very well. I'm nearly finished and then I'll let you sit up. Tell me how you feel right now, Terry..?"


Kerry thinks, What the hey? "Engineering, we're showing a power loss somewhere." He shuts down the drive until the problem can be identified.

Douglas blinks, as the ship begins to list slightly. He frowns, looking over his panel in engineering. "Conn, Engines, I can't find anything! Is that why we're listing?"

Kerry skrees, "We were getting uneven thrust, Engineering, so I shut down the drive. Are you showing any problems?"

Douglas frowns, whacking one gauge. "Conn, Engines... it's a fuel problem, I see it now. Compensating now."

The comm crackles, "Virtual Aurora, do you read? This is control... you are drifting towards the station. Virtual Aurora, do you read?"

Kerry looks at his readouts. What? We weren't aimed at the station. He skrees, "Got it. Powering up, give me one quarter power." He turns the ship so that the drives will push them away. "Understood, Traffic Control. Compensating."

Douglas says, "Roger, Conn, one-quarter power..."


The human stupidly tries to attack the armadillo. He is caught and pushed back, tripping over the airlock threshold that one of his feet is still inside of, and falling onto his back in the airlock with Vash coming down on top of him. It's only then that he realizes he's made a terrible mistake, and he tries to say something. His radio, oddly, isn't working.

Vash sits bolt upright atop the 'terrorist,' lips drawn back from his teeth, arm cocked to strike -- as the terrorist slaps the ground twice with his hand. Vash's expression slips immediately back to an easy grin. He leans down close to the helmet and articulates very clearly. "DON'T. YOU. MOVE. I WILL HURT YOU. NOD IF YOU UNDERSTAND ME." The terrorist nods frantically, beads of sweat forming on his face as he looks, wide-eyed, at the armadillo. Vash nods once, and very slowly stands up. He backs over to the bulkhead without looking away from the prone intruder, and feels for the public com. "Boarder neutralized. Repeat, boarder is neutralized."


The engines come back online smoothly after Douglas compensates for the fuel system being somehow blocked, and the flight controls respond normally. Douglas starts looking into why the fuel system was blocked. Fuel systems just do not become blocked. A moment later he mutters half-under his breath, "Well, some good news at least." He clicks on the com. "Conn, Engines. Now that things are calmer, it seems that the fuel line was messed up by the impact of the terrorist who got in our way."

Kerry skrees, "Traffic control, we had some minor damage from an impact. Things are under control, and we have a prisoner. Requesting permission to dock."

"Roger, Virtual Aurora. Security staff will meet you at bay 34."

Kerry skrees, "Bay 34, understood. Initiating docking."


Sakura goes back over to the comm once she's got the cut sewn up, "Conn, this is medical. Terry is serious... this is a non-simulation injury."

Douglas looks up at the comm and grimaces, shaking his head as he monitors the engines on the little craft's return journey. I was afraid of that, he thinks dourly. I wonder if we get points taken off for knocking out the observer?


Vash kneels in the hallway, one hand gently restraining on the terrorist's chest, and all smiles, "Good reflexes... I was about to put your lights out." The terrorist nods slowly, a faintly rueful look on his face... then tries raising one open hand cautiously and non-threateningly towards his helmet ring.

The simulator settles to the low points of its mechanism, and the airlock door grinds and clanks shut and then open again, revealing a human doctor, who asks, "Who's hurt? What happened?"

Vash grins and helps to drag the poor battered terrorist up to his feet. "This one's okay, I think... I didn't hurt you, did I? Head for Medical, doctor. Down that way." He jerks his thumb toward the far end of the corridor.

The 'terrorist' manages to get his helmet off and gasps for breath. Apparently his suit's ventilation had died too, and things were starting to get a little humid. He shakes his head and says, "No, I'm all right." He looks at Vash adding, "You've got one hell of a punch, though."

Vash smiles, half-apologetically. "I'm sorry about that... I wasn't sure what kind of a threat you were presenting, and we've got wounded on board just down the hall, there. I'm glad you're not hurt too bad."


Sakura walks back over to Terry and loosens the straps that were holding him down, "Terry-sama. Will you please sit up for me?" She offers her hands to help him into a sitting position. He starts to sit up, his eyes opening... then he winces and hastily closes them again, freezing still for a moment... then, very slowly, he tries sitting up. He carefully doesn't open his eyes or move his head much. Sakura waits until Terry is sitting then does another quick evaluation of the back of his head, paws as gentle as she can get them.

Terry winces again, eyes still closed, and mutters, "God my head hurts..."

Sakura nods, "I bet. Quite the fall that you took, sir."

The doctor arrives and sees Terry sitting up. He looks at Sakura and asks, "What happened here?" Once things have been explained and he has had a chance to double-check the stitches he tells Sakura, "Very nicely done," and collects the sore human.

Sakura bows to the other doctor, "Thank you." She peels off whatever medical garb she was wearing and disposes of it carefully before she goes back to Conn.


Douglas hears the goings-on, and figures the simulation is over. Nevertheless, he shuts down the engines properly -- even if simulated, it's the engineering thing to do -- and gets up, going up the corridor. Up in command, Kerry shuts down the bridge and picks his goggles up, wandering back to the entrance. He nods to the others. "An interesting simulation, wasn't it?"

Douglas nods once, to Kerry. "It makes me wonder, though, just what they're expecting us to face. Navigational, medical, and engineering problems are one thing -- terrorists are quite another."

Vash keeps an arm around the terrorist, just to make sure he's steady on his feet. He nods and smiles, then raps gently on the spacesuit, "You gonna be okay to walk?"

The 'terrorist' nods and says, "Yeah, I'm cool." Standing on his own, he offers his hand to the armadillo and adds, "Nice meeting you. I'm Andy, by the way," and smiles.

Vash grins and shakes the offered hand. "Vash. Good to meet ya."

Once everyone is outside, the woman, Anne, comes down from the control room and says, "Well, we need to run some analysis and determine who the best crews were. All the teams are to report back here first thing tomorrow at 9:00am for the announcement." She escorts everyone back to the main conference room, and tells them they have the evening to themselves. All the teams are in the same hotel, as it works out.

Kerry skrees to Doug, "Who knows what there might be on the other side of the gate?"

"Certainly not human terrorists, I'd bet." Douglas shakes his head slightly. "Well, we won't know until we cross it, I imagine." Even as he says it, he has to confess to himself that he might not be entirely right. After all, nobody knows what happened to the humans who crossed the Gate.

Vash says, "Actually... I think I DO know."




Last modified: 2000-Sep-19 13:30:56

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