Space Seed - Version #2

MacKenzie "Mac-Koi" Koi wasn't a rocket jockey. He was an artist. He merged with his ship, he felt the ship in ways that the regular pilots thought was just a myth. As he skimmed the surface of Venus using the planets Gravity to accelerate his one seat cruiser to incredible speeds. He thought about his choices for what seemed like the hundredth time. The warning alarms had seemed much louder and brighter than any he had ever seen. After a moment of shock spent verifying the hull breach he had started running to the launch bay. The dull metal of the ships deck clanged in staccato rhythm as he sped to his ship. The dim halls and hatches were barely visible in the minimal lighting of the aging freighter. He reached his cruiser and leaped into the cockpit. He fired up the engines as his friend Milo started opening the hanger doors. As the engines started to hum he noticed several canisters and containers get sucked into space. Things were a lot worse than he thought if Milo was venting rather than pumping the air back into the ship. He finished strapping himself into his seat and launched his ship as soon as the hanger doors were opened wide enough to allow him to pass through.

He squinted as he burst from the darkness of the aging ships hanger into the brightness of the sun. He low flew along the hull and took a good look at the damage. A three hundred meter gash lead to a 20 meter hole in the forward port cargo bay. As he banked away from the ship two of his crew-mates joined him in formation. Grunting in disgust at their presence he barked into his communicator to Milo that he could nudge the ship but would need a lot more speed. He dove his ship towards Venus to sling shot around the planet and use its gravity well to accelerate his ship.

He looked over his shoulder at the two pilots that were flying with him. He did not know them well and he did not like them but they all worked for the same man. Milo. The pilots were not human, or at least not of a pure strain. They were water mutants, or squids. Mac hated squids, built from human stock to live in salt water communes and produce food for the surface dwellers. After a few generations they had developed a grey green skin hue, and a dark green patch under their gills.

Bred to be slaves, the surface dwellers were shocked when the squid revolt hit. The water mutants had surprised the surface by not only cutting off a valuable food supply but also striking with massive military force into the mega cities of the surface. Mac-Koi had been just a child when the attacks had started, and had served two tours during the second water war. When the water war was all over there were only three governing bodies left. First was the last national government, if you could call it that. The government of India was the last vestige of the old governments. The water mutants were another world power. They called them selves the Seabren. Mac just called them squids, as did a lot of the surface dwellers. They had become the biggest military force in the world, and except for one force they would have conquered the planet.

The force that stopped them was the consortium. The consortium was made up of the biggest companies in the world. They saw that the water mutants would simply over power the surface forces, so they stepped in. They purchased the militaries of the United States, Russia, Britian, and China. Other governments just assigned their military forces to the command of this growing corporate group. Only India and Japan remained separate from the consortium. The water mutants completely and utterly destroyed the island of Japan. That was what allowed the consortium to make their move. They moved a massive military force into place and moved towards the main home cities of the water mutants. This forced the water mutants to retreat from Japan and defend or risk having their own cities destroyed.

It was a solid counter attack plan, but the consortium was smarter than that. The military forces were just a decoy. They had thousands of scientists working on the perfect weapon. When the water mutants had moved to defend their homes they unleashed a gene virus. It made the water mutants change. They could still breathe water but they could no longer survive for long outside of it. The surface forces retreated in front of the advancing water mutant forces. It was a massacre. Thousands of the water mutants died without the surface forces having to fire a single shot. However, the virus was not perfect, or maybe the scientists did not think the consortium was the best choice to rule the planet. In either case a balance was struck. The water mutants were a power but they now knew that the consortium could destroy them on the surface. The consortium knew they needed the water mutants to produce the massive amounts of food the surface dwellers required to survive. In the twenty years since the end of the second water war the consortium, the sovereign government of India, and the Seabren formed an alliance to manage and govern the planet.

The bubbling and popping noises that passed for squid language brought Mac-Koi back to the present. "Okay you water bastards, none of that bubble crap, we have a job to do." Mac-Koi was selected to be part of the first unit to release the virus into the massed squid troops and as far as he was concerned they didn't finish the job. "The consortium isn't paying us to lose this cargo."

"I know that Koi. We are prepared to save the ship. Just lead us into position." Jiliat blurted. "Maybe you aren't the pilot the consortium thought you were." A gurggle-pop-slurp came over the communicator as Tacoum laughed at Jillat's comments.

"A little more of that and I might have to roast me a little fish." Mac-Koi barked. "Milo! Milo! Are you there, what are our options."

Back on the bridge of the cargo freighter the alarms were getting louder. Milo Besin looked into the scanner and he was pretty certain he was about to die. It had been almost five minutes since he last heard form his crew. He spent a moment feeling sorry for himself and then started to plan his next move. He didn't think we would live if he lost his cargo, but it was looking like he would not live if he kept it either. Moving along the console he vented cargo holds into space. He grimaced as he mentally calculated the value of the goods he was ejecting into space. The freighter lurched as the cargo was sucked into the void. He was about to vent the second bay when the communicator burst to life.

"Milo! Milo! Are you there, what are our options." MacKenzie's voice crackled over the aging cargo hulks speakers. "Milo, what the hell are you doing! We can still salvage the hulk if you give us a chance! I'm not risking my ass for nothing, and I am not letting the consortium think I let their cargo get dragged into the sun."

"Mac, I was starting to think you had left for good." He let out a long breath, he know this was a dire straits.

"It crossed my mind. I would have left already if I knew you were out here dumping cargo." Mac-Koi shouted into his communicator. "You know as well as I do that we either save that cargo or we might as well all free fall into the sun."

"I'll keep that in mind. "Are the twins with you?" Milo asked.

"We are still here. We are ready to move this ship to safety" Tacoum slurred, "we need to act now or move on."

Milo shook his head. He didn't know how he was going to keep this crew from killing each other. He started to wonder how he could drop the cargo and not have the consortium kill him. This was his last job, he had made a deal with his bosses. This cargo was his ticket on a transport to Alpha Centauri. He could leave Earth and retire but only if he salvaged this last cargo. Jillat and Tacoum came back towards the ship. They passed as close as they dared and Milo was knocked to the deck as the Seabren used the gravity drives on there ships to drag at the cargo hulk and pull it out of its decaying orbit. Milo was just getting to his feet when he was knocked down again. This time it was Mac-Koi. He got a lot closer and he had a bigger ship. Milo got to his feet and checked the console. The silence on the bridge was surreal after the alarms. Milo checked the orbit, it had stabilized and he knew he could now get back to the rendezvous point and collect form the consortium.

"Okay, this think is back on track. Get back here. We have two hours to assess the damage before we need to meet with our sponsors." He shouted into the communicator. He turned off the communicator and quickly put the course corrections into the navigation computer. He watched for a second to make sure the corrections were enough and that the orbit would not start to decay again. He turned off any inessential systems to reserve more power for the engines.

Once he was confident that the freighter would start the long trip to its lunar destination he needed to assess the damage. It wouldn't do to arrive at the delivery point without the artifacts the consortium was looking for. He walked slowly towards the cargo hold. The flickering lights in the hallways were not the friendliest light to walk towards your doom. After a few moments Milo started to run to the cargo hold and hoped he was going to find enough to salvage his deal with the consortium.

In only a moment Milo was at the damaged cargo hold. Milo looked at the artifacts the consortium had them hauling to the delivery point on the dark side of the Moon. The cargo hold that was damaged held the most expensive artifacts, of course. This cargo was officially owned by the consortium, of course. The hold was huge it contained 32 square sections each 32 meters to a side. Milo made his way to the damaged section. He almost fell over when he found that it was two complete sections that had been lost. The emergency bulkheads had sealed off the damage before it spread. Milo started to go through the rows and rows and rows of items. Many of the rows near the damaged area were knocked over. Milo started looking for a cause for the blast that had ripped a 20 meter hole into the hull of the ship. All this cargo were artifacts that had been harvested off Venus. It was a big shock to the people of Earth when the terraforming of Venus started that massive sites and machines began to be found.

Milo and his crew had been selected to make this delivery along with a lot of the items from Earth because they were not weighed down by the legality or morality of leaving behind people to haul away artifacts of questionable merit. Milo found another section that had been damaged very severely. The destroyed crates had been sucked into the damaged section. It looked like something from this section had punched a hole in the hull and took nearly seventy thousand cubic meters of cargo with it. He looked at the massive crates and calculated the number of people this ship could carry to safety. Shaking his head he thought about the two hundred and ten thousand cubic meters of cargo he had vented into space.

Alone in the darkness of the cargo hold he started to feel very alone in the world. His spirits got a good lift when he heard footfalls on the cold metal floor of the cargo bay.

"About time," he called to them , "we will have to do an inventory. I've recalculated the escape vectors and I think we may will be able to make the delivery schedule. If we still have enough to satisfy our customers, that we will have to..." Milo trailed off as turned to face the crew and there was no one there. He took a step towards a wall communicator and froze. A large crate was open and in the middle of the cargo hold. The crate wasn't there when he had crossed that section of the hold less than ten minutes ago.

Milo felt his last meal rise into his throat. Swallowing hard. He lurched over to the wall and punched a communicator panel. "Where the hell are you guys! Get down here now." No one responded. "Mac-Koi!" More silence. Milo spun around as a echoing crash rang through the cargo hold. Milo started to think that his crew had abandoned him. Milo pulled out his personal communicator and turned it on. It didn't have a lot of range but if Mac and the Twins were in the ship and near by he could communicate with them without using the ancient and apparently faulty communications of the cargo freighter.

"Mac! Jillat! Tacoum! I need you in the cargo hold now!" Milo snapped into his communicator.

"Milo? Is that you I can barely hear you." Mac voice cracked over the small device. "You dropped the ball buddy, Tacoum's ship is badly damaged. Drop the Magnetic shields, we can't get into the ship."

"What? The shields are down. I haven't put them up since we left the moon for Venus." Milo ran out of the cargo hold to a mini console. There were a lot of lights on that console. "Dammit, Mac I don't know whats going on but the weapons systems are powering up. Get away from the ship. Get away from the ship." Milo was started to get very nervous. He turned and took two running strides towards the bridge and ran straight into two of the strangest creatures he had ever seen.

They were about 7 and a half feet tall and had a metallic quality to their skin. Milo was struck by how fragile they looked, but judging from the swelling in his lip where he had contacted one, it was only appearance. They reached out and grasped Milo by the neck and shoulders. A high pitched squeal rang out from the creatures as they moved Milo back into the cargo hold. It seemed like quite some time to Milo that they sat there as they made those noises at him. Finally they led him away from the crates as several of the creatures converged from multiple locations. They each had peaces that Milo guessed were from the cargo. Milo started to yell at the creatures holding him and they released their grip on him. The items they were carrying started to melt and merge into larger items. Milo started to worry that he would not make his retirement.

The items started to grow and Milo suspected that the creatures were building a ship. Milo started to crawl backwards towards the main portal out of the hold. The creatures started to melt into the ship as the ship started to spin. The lower portions of the ship started to glow. The floor of the hold seemed to bend and warp away from the ship. Milo got up and ran. He leapt through the portal and slammed into the wall beyond. A brilliant light started to glow in the cargo hold. The entire ship shuddered as the things in the cargo hold broke through the first layer of the hull of the ship. The thing they had created started to arc up into the air crashing into rows of crates. Milo reached the control panel and hit the seal controls to close the bulkheads around the cargo hold.

Milo did not wait until the cargo hold was sealed, he started to sprint to the bridge. The lights in the halls were flickering badly. The was a lot of smoke in the main hall leading from the cargo hold. The dull sound of his footfalls were drowned out by the crashing sound of the creatures ship smashing through massive crates. Milo hoped he could get to the bridge before something really bad happened. He didn't make it.

The ship shuddered as the creatures ship ripped through the hull and escaped. Milo was thrown to the floor by the force of the hull breach. This was much worse than the first explosion. Milo was on his hands and knees trying to clear his head when a second blast rocked the cargo freighter. Milo was starting to get very nervous. He got to his feet and wiped the blood from his eyes. He must have hit his head when he hit the floor.

Once on the bridge he assessed the damage. It wasn't good. Alarms and warning lights accompanied nearly have the displays. Two massive holes had been ripped open along the side of the ship. This immediately noticed three significant problems that this had caused. First the freighter had resumed its near free fall into the sun. Second the port engines were offline, and judging from the massive damage on the port side of the ship they would not be back online prior to the freighter was drawn into the sun. Third, one of the holes in the ship had cut off Milo's path to the landing bay on the port side of the ship. Unfortunately that was where Milo's ship was, and right now it looked like that was his best chance to survive.

Milo started to punch commands into the control panel. He turned off the weapons systems, dropped the magnetic shields, and opened communications channels. "Mac you still out there?" Milo screamed. "I think I might be in trouble."

"We are not in the best of shape either." Mac-Koi's voice was shaky, "Why is the weapons system on? You nearly took Jillat out with the last volley of EM Disruption missiles. And Tacoum is down an engine. When those things blew out of the ship, it really made a mess. There is a lot debris out here. Fire up those engines, we can make another acceleration run past Venus. I think we can drag you out of this orbit again."

"Don't bother Mac, the port engines are out and I think the thrust from the starboard engines just isn't enough to break the gravity pull now. I am going to try to drop some mass and maybe gain escape velocity that way." Milo barked.

"That will take time, lose the freighter. Jump into your cruiser and get the hell out of there." Jillat's voice was crisp and clear.

"Sorry boys the path to my ship seems to have a rather large hole in it right now." Milo said. "I either get this ship going or I don't make it out."

"Okay, you start dropping cargo we'll see what we can do from here." Jillat said. Some bubbling an gurgling followed as he spoke with Tacoum. "Tacoum has a really good idea. Don't jettison the cargo from the starboard cargo bays. Tacoum is going to blast it. If you rotate 70 degrees to starboard the blast should give you the equivalent of a 2 minute engine burn."

Milo ran the calculation and Tacoum was right. "sounds good, rotating now."

It took a few moment for the bulky ship to complete the rotation. The alarms in the bridge started to sound like chanting to Milo. Twice during the maneuver the ship shuddered as the damaged sections reacted to the force of the engines.

"Rotation complete. Fire away Tacoum." Milo spoke into the communicator and started to shut down alarms.

Tacoum made a single pass past the freighter and blasted starboard cargo holds. The blast sent the freighter spinning, but spinning away from the Sun. The ship shuddered as the force of the explosions ripped large portions of the ships structure away. Milo gripped the console as the ship spun faster and shook more and groaned again. Looking at the console Milo started to to see that the blast was good not enough. He need to get the mass of the ship down and have a good long burn from the engines.

Smoke started to fill the room as Milo struggled to make calculations in the spinning console screen. He ran the calculations twice. He shouted into the communicator. "Okay guys, I need to drop 100 tons in order to have the starboard engines reach escape velocity. I can drop 60 or 70 tons on cargo but that's it. I am really interested in any ideas you have."

"Start dropping cargo, I think we can help you with the rest of the mass." Tacoum said.

Milo started opening cargo holds and watched as his last chance at escaping the Earth spun into space into an eventual impact with the Sun. Milo silently calculated the amount of fuel he would save as each hold vented into space.

"Cargo dropped. I am read for burn but I need another 30 tons gone." Milo was watching one of the few operational screens as Tacoum and Jillat ran the length of the ship. The ship jerked and shuddered as the blasted away at pieces of the superstructures. Milo hoped they were only taking pieces that were not necessary. More smoke started filling the bridge, and small fires started to flare up around the bridge. "This better work, you guys aren't leaving me a lot of choices or second chances."

"We'll get you out of there!" Mac shouted as he blasted the port bays off the ship. "That about all we can take off the ship! How your mass?"

Milo watched as the hold containing his cruiser floated off into space. He started running the calculations.

"That's ninety eight tons down. Mac take the twins and get clear. If this doesn't work its going to be a real short trip." Milo told his crew, he turned off the communicator and added "It's been great working with you."

Milo fired the starboard engines and the ship rocketed away from the sun. Views screens on the bridge showed the smaller ships speed away from the cargo freighter. Milo watched the sensors he had left and hoped that they would show him breaking free and moving towards the Moon. As the fuel ran out the sensors did not give him good news. As the ship shook and started to fall towards the sun again Milo sat by the console and started to go over the things they had tried looking for something that they could try. Mac-Koi's voice was crackling over the communicator, but Milo wasn't listening. He knew that this was his last shipment, just as he planned, but he wasn't going to retire according to plan. He reached up to turn off the console and something dropped out of his pocket.

It was a small shard, no longer than a seed. It looked like it was made of the same strange material that the creatures in the cargo bay was made of. Milo stared at this thing the space seed as it grew and expanded in size. Milo backed away as the thing grew.

Milo crawled over the communicator link. Mac was organizing another run at the ship calculating what parts of the ship could be blasted off without destroying it. "Mac get clear, really strange things are going on here. This freighter isn't going to make it." Mac started to reply but Milo powered down the freighter and walked over to the tear shaped growth that had grown from the space seed.

Milo reached out to touch the thing and was shocked that his arm passed into the mass. Milo was so shocked he took several steps back and fell into another one of the aliens. Milo started to scream as he realized that the bridge had more than a dozen of the creatures merging with the new ship in the center of the bridge. These sleek creatures ignored Milo and entered this new ship. The ship started to spin and Milo began to scream. He saw in the last functioning view screen hundreds of these ships burst from the long line of debris the freighter had produced.

Milo was thrown into the wall as the ship tore through the first bulkhead. The force was enough to knock him cold. This was probably best as only moments later the bridge emptied into space as the new ship broke free of the shattered remains of the aging space freighter.

Mac-Koi saw the freighter disintegrate. He knew his friend had not made it out. He watch for about a half hour until a massive solar flare consumed the the remains of the old ship. The twins were already a good distance towards the moon. MacKenzine waited just a few moments longer and turned his cruiser towards the moon and hoped he could convince the consortium that the loss of the cargo is not a breach of contract.

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