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Starlight station, Module one, Deck 3, July 12th, 2504, 15:03
The Starlight’s crew had settled into Gabe’s cabin, each staking a claim to part of the room. Judy sat close to Gabe on his bunk. Zack and Marty sat on the overhead bunk. Jenny leaned back in the only chair bracing it against the wall. Adam was on the floor in front of the monitors, which was the center of everyone’s attention.
“We’re all going to die!” Zack exclaimed, pounding his head against the frame of the bunk. He had been watching the colonist wander around the casino like zombies in some wave (movie).
“Bizui,” responded Marty.
Adam moved from the floor over to Zack and Marty’s side of the room. He watched Marty hit Zack several times, but that only made Zack even more agitated. Zack raised his fist and Adam made his move, grabbing the man and pulling him to the floor. Before Zack could respond Adam flipped him over onto his stomach and pressed his knee into the small of his back.
Zack let out a series of mudder’s curses that would have made any spacer blush.
“Zack, I understand you can’t help yourself, but you are ruining my calm!” Adam yelled. Rising to his feet, he turned to Jenny and nodded in the direction of Zack.
The captain stuck his head into the cabin and cleared his throat. He waited for everyone to look his direction. “I want to have a meeting in the Caf-Deck.”
Judy and Marty headed out into the corridor first, looking relieved. Adam briefly watched Jenny as she knelt over Zack before departing the area. Gabe nodded to the captain with the understanding that he planned to keep watching the monitors.
“Jenny, you and Zack come when you are ready. Gabe, let me know if anything changes,” ordered the captain.
“Aye, captain,” answered Gabe, turning to the images on the monitors.
The captain could hear that Gabe had almost given up, his spirit had weakened, and he just called him “captain” in a respectful manner.
* * *
Everyone sat at the table, tea in front of them. An empty cup sat in front of the seat reserved for the captain. He sat down, placing his hands together as if he was going to pray.
Jenny and Zack wandered in and took their seats. Zack looked as if he’d been crying. Jenny shrugged in the direction of Adam and the captain.
“Okay. So, what do we know?” asked the captain.
“There are zombies on the deck, I…I mean visitors,” answered Zack, sounding a little more coherent at the end of his statement.
“And the twenty or so Alliance soldiers,” said Adam, obviously trying to give the meeting a little momentum. He looked over to Jenny.
“A few orderlies,” answered Jenny, counting them off with her fingers, holding up a count of four.
“That doctor with the glasses, Mr. Black and the two guys he has up there with him,” said Judy.
“How many would you say there were on Black’s ship?” asked Marty.
“Maybe two, but we can’t be certain because we haven’t seen any wave footage of Black’s ship,” answered Adam. He took a drink of his tea; he rolled his tongue wishing he had taken the time to brew some coffee.
“What about the Firefly? How many do you think would be on that bird?”
“Oh, at least five, and I would say no more than ten, but we can’t be certain that a few of the orderly’s aren’t part of the crew,” answered Adam.
“So how many does that make?” asked Jenny.
“There are around 40 on the Visitor’s side and 26 on the Home team,” said the captain.
“Thought there were 20 zombies,” said Judy.
“No, nineteen,” whispered Zack, in the last few minutes he seemed to have calmed down.
“No, in the end this is a different game, and we are going in on the Home team’s side,” said the captain, sounding confident.
“So captain, it’s 40 to 26, which wouldn’t be so bad if we had weapons and could be sure the Home team won’t turn on us,” stated Adam.
“Yeah, and we have the element of surprise,” stated Marty. He noticed everyone looked confused.
“How’s that? We are stuck in here like rations in a can.” responded Judy, rising to stretch her legs.
“Not exactly, as everyone points out at least once a day, I was an injector cleaner on the Basure,” stated the captain, again sounding even more confident. He looked around at the un-enlightened faces. “Does anyone know what an injector cleaner does?”
“Not really,” answered Jenny.
“They crawl through the insides of stations injecting cleaning solutions into sewage lines. It’s so the lines don’t get plugged,” he answered, sounding less confident.
“Oh, my, that is a crappy job,” Jenny answered with a little laugh.
Everyone struggled with laughter before noting the captain’s expression.
“That is why I jumped at the chance to be any engineer on the Starlight. I was trained as an engineer, not a plumber, Damn it!”
“So how does that help us, exactly?” asked Zack.
“Under every Mess and Head there are crawl spaces,” answered the captain.
“I was also thinking that I could fit into an air vent, after all that is my job,” stated Marty.
“Because he’s the size of a turd,” laughed Zack.
Everyone began laughing along with Zack, including his brother. It was the first normal thing Zack had said in the last 8 hours.
“How big are these exits?” asked Judy, suddenly looking worried.
“Not big enough for you and Gabe, I am afraid,” answered the captain. He lowered his head looking into his tea, pausing to think on the problem.
“Then count me out, I can hardly stomach the corridor let alone a fracking vent, or a crapper cave!” yelled Zack, with a renew frustration, jumping to his feet and exited into the corridor.
Adam watched Zack stomp away, he looked to Jenny, who nodded back. “So, any plan will have to include an exit strategy for the three of them.”
The captain nodded without raising his head. “Yes, maybe Marty could use the air vent to get around the welded hatches and open them from the other side.” He sounded less confident, a fact that was noted by the quick glances amongst the crew.
“As long as there is a cutting torch on the other side of the door,” said Marty, nodding in agreement.
“If not, could you bring something up from engineering to do the job?” asked Judy. She moved around the counter, ducking under the bulkhead.
“Yeah, but the air vents don’t go there. I would only have access to this module,” answered Marty.
“I am not trying to punch holes in the plan, but, we don’t have a way of communicating back and forth,” stated Jenny, but by her tone it was meant as a question.
“No, we don’t,” said Judy, pulling a snack from the cooler.
“So, what do we do for communication?” asked Adam, turning to the captain, who had remained quiet for the last few minutes.
“That’s why we have a plan that we stick to,” answered the captain, looking up to meet the stares of his crew.
“So, Captain what do you have in mind?” asked Jenny.
“We need a distraction.”
* * *
Gabe reached into his duffle and pulled out a bag of Blue Sun pretzels, saying, “You might be old but you are still good.” He was talking about himself, but laughed when he thought about the pretzels. Leaning against the back of the bunk, he buried his meaty hand into the small bag. The image flickered as the man in black appeared on the center monitor.
“Doctor Ryan, have you finished loading the Walker program to the Starlight’s computer?” asked Mr. Black, showing his renewed calm.
“Yes, I am just running the diagnostics, and soon we’ll be connecting the Walkers. You should be happy with the progress,” answered Dr. Ryan, not looking up preferring to work.
“Let me know when you are ready.”
“Yeah-yeah,” answered Dr. Ryan, waving his hand as if he were shooing a child away.
The main monitor switched to the Caf-Deck. The group sat around the table talking, looking as if they were planning something.
Gabe jumped up, stumbling over the trash in the middle of his cabin. “Guys, they’re watching!”
Judy stood and grabbed Adam, pulling him across the table for an extended kiss. The others laughed and jumped from their positions around the table to root her on. Adam’s arms flailed in an attempt to get away from her, to no avail. She pressed him against her. His free arm hit her side over and over.
The center monitor changed back to the main casino then to the arena.
“Okay guys, they are looking the other way!” yelled Gabe, settling back onto the bunk. In the other room he could hear Adam fall to the deck and the few choice words that he used to describe his attacker.
“Ah, it is all for the good of the cause,” he yelled, laughing once again at Adam.
The multi-cam view changed. This time, an image of the corridor and the Caf-deck appeared.
“What are you up to?” he asked, as he stood and walked out of the hatch to inform the rest of the crew. Maybe he could get a repeat performance; this time she could kiss him.
* * *
The Walkers came at the guardsmen fifteen strong, bouncing off the line at full speed. Their reaction time was impressive compared to the last engagement. The remaining four swung around and attempted to out flank the guardsmen who, in turn, were waiting for the attack.
“Guys, you might want to get in here,” yelled Judy. She had replaced Gabe at the monitors.
Adam appeared at the door, “What’s happening?”
“The zomb…,” she started to say before simply saying, “They are doing better.”
Gabe slipped into the room, taking his seat next to Judy.
On the center monitor the Alliance troopers pulled their stun sticks and started to knock back the attackers.
“Okay, tell them to stop the attack,” ordered Dr. Ryan, he sounded frustrated and tired.
“Doing so now,” answered his orderly, from some where off camera.
“That was a lot better, Doctor Ryan,” stated Mr. Black who sounded very much impressed.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Dr. Ryan, only glancing to the camera.
“What are you talking about doctor?” asked Mr. Black, he sounded a little nervous, causing his two men in the control room to look over.
“Something is slowing the AI processors of the gaming program.” The doctor paused to make eye contact before turning his attention back to his work.
“Can you fix it?” asked Mr. Black.
“No, we’ll need to fix it from up there. Tell your man to look for a protocol that doesn’t belong. It should stick out.”
“Peter look for the problem. Ryan you should come up here.”
“Aye, sir,” answered Peter.
“I am on my way,” answered Dr. Ryan.
“Gabe, what’s going on with the gaming computer?” asked Adam, turning his attention to Gabe.
“I slowed it down.”
“How slow?” asked Adam.
“It has trouble counting to twenty-one.”
“And why would you do that?” asked Adam.
“So I would win,” answered Judy, now smiling in Gabe’s direction.
“Yeah,” he responded, leaning away from Judy, half expecting to be slapped.
“Well, I think that it is sweet,” she said.
“You’re not making plans to corpse-ify me?” he asked, leaning back to where he started.
“Yeah, well, I was wondering why I was taking the casino for every credit it had,” she laughed.
“If only the credits were real,” said Adam.
“It was the thought that counted,” whispered Judy rubbing her large hand through Gabe’s long greasy hair. She moved away and out the hatch to inform the other half of the crew.
“Gabe?” asked Adam, pausing to listen for Judy’s footsteps to fade. “What happens when they turn the Starlight’s computers up all the way?”
Gabe sat back in his bunk and pulled his hands behind his head for support before answering the question. “Well, it is like this, they started off acting like zombies, with the second attempt they looked like a riotous mob, now I would be willing to wager that they will look more like…”
“Monsters?” asked Adam.
“I was thinking a squad of colonial marines.”
“Are they a match against the Alliance guardsmen?”
“I am no soldier, Adam, but I would still bet the guardsman will take them out with the stun sticks, but it might be a better match,” answered Gabe.
“Sounds like a good distraction and a great time to make our escape.”
“You know they will catch up with the life-boats or worse, use them for target practice,” stated Gabe, mournfully.
“That is why we won’t be in the life-boats,” said Adam.
“Okay, where will we be?” asked the now confused Gabe.
The center channel went to a close up view of Mr. Black.
“We have figured it out, and are removing the sub-routines blocking the Starlight’s potential. How is Master Chief Thymus?”
“I am back up, but moving a little slow,” answered the scare faced man, who instead of a helmet wore a white bandage. “I got brained pretty good, but I’ll heal.”
“That is good. Get your men ready, the walkers should be moving a bit faster.”
Gabe looked from the monitor and met Adam’s eyes, “You have a plan?”
“I’ll get back to you, Gabe. I need to see a man about card game.”
“A card game?” asked Gabe, now standing to face Adam.
“Yeah, we need to play Three Card Monte.” Adam smiled at Gabe’s facial response.
“We don’t have time to play games,” said Gabe, chasing him out of the room and into the corridor.
Adam walked out into the corridor and moved to the storage area. Under the watchful eye of Gabe who remained in his hatchway.
In a past life, he had been a school teacher. He left the profession when he refused to change history to fit the school board’s ideology.
He missed the young faces of his students.
He was threatened with prison just for teaching them about the French Revolution. Someone didn’t want him reminding his students that in history, the oppressed had often risen up against their masters.
He was told he would be free to teach what he wanted on the border planets. His credits ran out short of his goal of living on the edge. Taking a job on this station was as far from the Core as he could get.
In the storage room he looked up at the camera then turned the light out. He slid the hatch shut.
“It’ll do,” he whispered, slipping back down the corridor, to the hatch leading to the Caf-Deck.