Image from HubbleSite
Those of you that follow me on Legends Undying may have already seen this post or if you have followed my from the beginning this is going to seem like old news, but hear me out. Since I created Brautigan’s Girl six months ago Kodiak Rising has been through two rounds of revision, this means that the original post of Chapter Two on this blog may no longer be accurate. The original post has been removed with the relaunch and thus this has been posted in its place.
Feb 14 – Prologue and Chapter One
Jake continued down the corridor to Maintenance Tunnel 32, which would grant him access to deck 10. The corridors were a disaster. Paneling had been thrown from the walls, as though a child had a tantrum. The lights flickered as power surged from severed conduits sending sparks from all sides. Smoke was thinning out as the environmental controls kicked into emergency back-up.
The Kodiak was equipped with a Redundant Nanobyte System. The failure of any equipment on the ship would send signals to activate Nanos, waking them from their normal state of hibernation. The Nanos would immediately go to work on the system. Jake could see the movement of hundreds of thousands of Nanos scrambling to repair the computer terminals.
As he moved down the corridor he could see evidence of Ashley Colburn and her crew. Debris had been pushed to one side, allowing for egress. As he rounded a corner Jake saw the first casualty. The debris had been cleared and the body had been placed with respect, a sheet draped over them. The dog tags lay on the torso. Jake knelt to read the name.
Jake just barely knew Marty. He had been recruited by one of his father’s men, maybe the Old Man himself. Finding new, young recruits had become essential in the days leading up to – – – Jake couldn’t remember. Something of great importance happened here, but for the life of him the reason for the apparent battle was lost.
After paying his respects silently to the fallen soldier, Jake stood and continued. As he rounded the corner the full scope of the battle came into view. Suddenly the casualties were lining the corridor, head to toe all lay with respect. Each one had the tags placed on their torso for identification later. Jake stood for a moment unable to move. The site of so many casualties made him sick to his stomach. He had hoped there would be more injured lining the halls than dead. He was wrong.
He swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and continued. He tried to ignore the bodies lining the side of the corridor, but found himself staring at them. He couldn’t take his eyes from them, searching for the tags of his father. Sheets were beginning to run thin as he passed the last of the personal quarters. Soon the sheets ran out altogether, and bodies were left exposed. Young faces and old faces, all bloodied, eyes closed, hands across the chest. In their hands they held their tags. Coburn was doing her job well.
Jake knew all these faces, and the pain of the loss of these men and women was unbearable. Feeling panic begin to build in his heart Jake started to walk faster. The site of bodies continued, he had begun to lose count of them all. Soon Jake was running. He took his eyes away from the bodies, no longer wanting to see them.
When he reached the hatch to Maintenance Tunnel 32 and threw it wide open. He scrambled in, out of breath and panicked. Jake slammed the hatch closed behind him and took a moment to slow his pounding heart. Alone in the tunnel he waited, wiping the sweat from his brow.
Calm down, Jake, he thought. Keep going.
Landing on Deck 10 he continued into the corridor. Either fewer people were on this deck or Colburn hadn’t made it here yet.
Jake’s heart was pounding in his chest so fast he could hear the blood rushing in his ears. Panic. He ran toward the bridge. The pain in his head had subsided due to the adrenaline rush, but pain was creeping up his legs. He felt the fatigue in his muscles. The door to the bridge was just in front of him. From a distance he could see the door was no longer there, the sound of his feet pounding on metal confirmed that it had been blown off by an explosion and thrown 15 meters down the corridor. It must have been massive!
Entering the bridge, he was blown away. Everything had been turned upside down and the bridge appeared to be empty. Sparks flew out from all sides as the electricity arched from terminal to terminal.
“Dad?” he yelled rushing forward, “Dad!”
“He’s not here, Jake,” it was Bennie Elliot the ships Navigator. Bennie was kneeling in front of his terminal.
“He went to Engineering,” Bennie continued. “Hansen was having a hell of a time down there. The Core was leaking, she had to evacuate, but with the computer down she had to close the blast doors manually. Last we heard there was an explosion and we lost communication.”
“Bennie, what happened?” Jake asked.
“Not quite sure, sir,” Bennie answered. “We were engaged in combat and then suddenly time seemed to slow down, almost stop. Next thing I know the Boats out of control, we got hit by something serious, Boss. Thought she was gonna blow apart any second. The Old Man ordered me to get her under control then took off to help Hansen. Said he’d be in contact when things were under control.”
“Who were we in combat with?” Jake asked dazed.
“I don’t remember, Jake,” Bennie answered. “I can’t seem to recall much before the blast.”
“You’re not alone there, Bennie,” Jake put a hand on his friends shoulder. “No one on the crew seems to remember anything other than total chaos.”
“Seems a bit strange to me,” Bennie shook his head.
“I wonder what could cause a ship wide loss of memory,” Jake mused.
“I’ve heard of such phenomenon before, usually surrounding something particularly traumatic. They say it’s the minds way of shielding the person from shock and awe,” Bennie answered. “But then again, it’s possible that the shock wave from some weapon was so great that we all blacked out.”
“It’s possible,” Jake agreed. “But something doesn’t quite fit. I can remember our training, the Academy, each individual on the Boat, but I’ve lost why we were on the Boat to begin with. I don’t recall who we were in battle with. I don’t know why I was in the Cargo Bay instead of here. Something isn’t right.”
“The Cargo Bay?” Bennie reacted in surprise. “Beats the hell out of me!”
“Any idea where we are?” Jake asked looking out the great window into the vastness of space.
Jake moved closer and watched over Bennie’s working hands. “You know what every little wire does?” Jake asked in wonder.
“Sure do,” Bennie answered without looking away. “Right now I’m trying to get navigation back up. Without it we could fly right into a star or a planet. Hell, even a speck of dust could be our undoing with the shape The Kodiak is in right now.”
“What’s the status?”
“Well, sir, she’s dead in the water,” Bennie responded. “The computer is down and I have lost all control of the helm. Navigation is offline. We’re on reserve power. But there’s no telling how long that will last. The Nanos are bogged down by the environmental controls and life support. They’re the only thing keeping us alive right now.”
“At least the Protectorate did something right there,” Jake shook his head.
“Protectorate had nothing to do with it,” Bennie laughed. “That’s Guardian technology there.”
There was no love lost between the Alaskans and the Protectorate. That much couldn’t be denied. Alaska was the last of the “free” territories, but free was a term used only by the Protectorate.
“What can I do to help you, friend?” Jake asked.
“What I really need is Dex,” Bennie answered. “Kid knows the Boat inside and out. He was on his way to engineering too; Alia was in a world of trouble down there. Hope everyone is alright. You’re the first person who’s come up here since. . .”
“How long has it been, Bennie?” Jake asked concerned.
Bennie turned and faced him. In the dim light of the reserve power Jake could see Bennie’s mechanical eyes glint.
“I’m not sure, Jake; it feels like an eternity since the Old Man left. I was beginning to think I was the only one left.”
“You’re not,” Jake put a hand on Bennie’s shoulder. “I assure you some of us are still here.”
“I’m happy to see you, friend,” Bennie clasped Jake’s shoulder.
“I am happy to see you too,” Jake smiled. “I’ll find Dexter for you and send him your way and anyone else that might be able to help.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep an eye out for the Old Man. If he comes back, I’ll give him hell for ya,” Bennie smiled.
“You’re a true friend,” Jake smiled back. “Do what you need to do, Bennie.”
“I’m on it, sir,” Bennie responded returning to his work.
“I’m going after Dad,” Jake turned to leave.
“Jake,” Bennie stopped him. “Be careful down there.”
“Always,” Jake smiled and left the bridge.
Returning to the corridor, Jake found himself feeling relieved to see his old friend. Bennie was Jake’s wingman from Academy. If anyone could get this Boat under control, Bennie was the man. Pair him with Dexter Anderson and Jake was certain they would be setting a course for home within a few hours.
They may be young, but Jake knew that his crew of junior officers was far superior to his fathers’ men. Captain Paul and his men brought experience, but Jake and his crew brought imagination and passion. The old men of the senior staff were brilliant, no doubt, but Jake knew that most of his crew could outperform them any day. The Academy did not let slackers graduate! In order to even get considered for a position on a space war vessel like The Kodiak, one needed to prove oneself over and over again.
He and Bennie had been inseparable since the White Dunes Battle. Thinking back to those days almost made Jake forget the troubles of this day.
What was I doing in the Cargo Bay? Jake thought as he continued down the corridor. What in the great vastness of space would Jake need to be doing in the cargo bay at the time of a battle? Why wasn’t he on the bridge? The sheer audacity of the situation astounded him into remorseful silence.
As he continued toward Maintenance Tunnel 62, direct access to Engineering from anywhere on the ship, the panic began to rise again, slowly at first but steadily increasing. He knew something had gone wrong, either in Engineering or before the Old Man even got there.
He turned a corner and came face to face with a mangled wall terminal. There had been a massive cave-in during the battle. It appeared an entire corridor was cut-off.
“Can anyone hear me?” he called. No answer.
He began to pull at the debris, removing bit by bit the first layer of destruction. He needed to see how deep this wound really was.
“Anyone back there?” he called again.
There was a cough. It came from deep in the corridor.
“Hello?” Jake’s heart leapt. It could be his old man, “Who’s back there?”
The cough continued.
Jake began to dig.
“I need you to talk to me, who’s back there?” he said chucking debris behind him. No longer was there any regard for what he was throwing.
“I’m here,” it was not the voice of the Captain, but Jake knew who it was.
“Bradley?” Jake asked. “Matt Bradley is that you back there?”
“Yea,” Matt coughed again. “Hurry up.”
“What happened to you?” as Jake pulled a piece of metal away from the pile Matt’s gruff face appeared buried in the junk.
“You ask like I had something to do with it!” Matt responded with a wicked grin. “Well, let me tell you, this was not a stunt!”
Matt was widely known as the master of all practical jokes. It was rumored that he was the master mind responsible for the great St. Paul Shock Wave, though Matt would never dream of publicly admitting to something so illegal.
“Love what you’ve done with the place,” Jake laughed as he took Matt’s hand and pulled him free of the debris. Matt was covered in dust and metal shards, but largely unharmed.
“What the hell happened out there, Morris?” Matt asked brushing off the dust.
“I wish I could tell you,” Jake shook his head. “But it appears the entire crew has lost its collective short-term memory. No one even remembers who or what we were in combat with!”
“That’s messed up, Morris,” Matt said wide eyed.
“You’re telling me. Lots of dead on Deck 13, I’m sure there’s more we haven’t discovered all over the Boat.”
“The Old Man?” Matt asked.
“No sign of him yet,” Jake answered solemnly. “Bennie says he was on his way to Engineering, apparently Alia was having trouble.”
“Well that’s what happens when you leave the Core in the hands of a woman!” Matt spat. “I’m tellin you, Morris, the woman is evil. You know it, I know and the Kodiak knows it. That’s why things keep falling apart around here. The Kodiak is sending you a message.”
“Matt, things keep breaking because you brought the skateboard with you,” Jake reminded. “You and that archaic form of entertainment!”
“Skateboarding is a fine art of speed and balance,” Matt was offended pointing his index finger at Jake’s face, “I will have you know that I possess both skills necessary to safely navigate the promenade on said archaic entertainment.”
The young men shared a much needed laugh, breaking the tension of the day’s events.
“Listen, Matt, Bennie is on the bridge, he could really use your help. We’re dead in the water,” Jake grew serious.
“For how long?” Matt went serious as well.
“I’m not sure,” Jake admitted. “Could have been hours. Long enough for Bennie to think he was the only one left.”
“That’s a mind fuck,” Matt cracked.
“Indeed. Bradley,” Jake was all professional now. “Make your way to the bridge and assist Helmsmen Elliot with any and all repairs. When and if I find Anderson, I’ll send him to relieve you.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Matt responded and took off to the bridge leaving Jake alone in the corridor again.
“Where are you, Dad?” Jake asked the air.
Jake stood there staring into the pile of debris. If the Old Man had come through here he would have stopped to get Matt out before moving on to the tunnel. Which could mean only one thing: Paul didn’t come this way. Why?
Jake turned to look around him, and noted the faint discoloration of oxidization on the metal paneling. A fire? An explosion? Whatever it was, it was very hot.
“You couldn’t come this way,” Jake whispered, “Because there was an explosion. This leaves you with tunnel 61.”
This was a much less direct route, taking you two decks below engineering, and dropping you closer to the transport bay than engineering. Jake turned and back tracked to Hatch 61 and pulled it open. Smoke billowed out of the hatch door and Jake’s heart began to sink.