Boondocks Episode 4, Season 3
Prior to the Battle of Thermoplye, Wiles had been in command of the independent freighter, the Shooting Star. His crew had consisted of Mcavity Thorn (first mate), and Roger Talbot (assistant mechanic and systems engineer). Later on Harold Wong (doctor), Janu Kei (public relations and security) and John McLow (co-pilot) joined to replaced departed, incarcerated or killed crew members. It had been discovered that their prior doctor had been a Darker infiltrator when a datapad of Darker origin was found in his personal effects. The pad contained detailed biographical information on Wiles and Talbot. Of the original crew only Thorn was not covered. That was a mystery for another day as according to the data, Talbot was a former engineer that worked on several classified weapons research projects for the Western Union. The Darker infiltrator had been tasked with telepathically scanning Talbot’s mind for data on the projects he had worked on. One of which was a hypothetical study on potential WPDs (Weapons of Planetary Destruction).
News continued to to arrive regarding the events that had taken place in the Zeus system. With over 7 million dead, it would be difficult for the Core to ignore or dismiss. It could take days for news to reach the Accord and no one really knew what their response would be.
On New Port Dillion, the Alliance was still collating and analysing the incoming data. A message buoy had been discovered in orbit around Zeus Beta. It did not match anything that had orbited the planet prior to its immolation and when accessed, it was discovered to be encoded with only a single four letter word repeated over and over. Burn. Various theories were also being floated as to how you ignite a planets atmosphere and how long it would remain burning.
With nearly all Alliance operations currently suspended the crew was left to their own devices. Samson meditated in his quarters, Ford traversed the intricate maze of Alliance bureaucracy in attempt to secure an extra Gunner for the star, Tyler crashed in his bunk waiting for the inevitable call and Wiles puttered around the Star mumbling something about a mono-filament turbo-strimmer sword. With his manic chuckling the crew were avoiding eye contact.
A comm call from his former first mate, Thorn, interrupted his train of thought. Certain aspects of the Darker’s attack reminded Thorn of something Talbot had once said. The Darker Datapad was still in Wile’s possession but after the excitement its existence had been forgotten. Cursing, Wiles cut the connection and began to root through his little-used cabin. He found it in the place most lost items mystically gravitate too, the sock drawer.
At first glance the unit appeared to be a standard generic model found in tens-of-thousands of electronics stores across settled space. However, the back of the unit concealed a hidden touch screen interface which accessed the secure section of the units programming. Although he could take the unit apart and put it back together again in under 15 seconds without having parts left over, using them was another matter entirely. Thankfully Ford was available.
Ford was able to access the device and download the data. The data itself contained no useful information. However, Darker computer systems use a unique language and operating system and so far they had resisted any attempt to crack their security. With the data Ford had downloaded, the Alliance would be able to decode the security software on the Darker ship they had been recovered from the crew of the Drake (See Episode One). After a couple of hours, they were able to extract some incredibly valuable data from the ship. Firstly they had underestimated the numbers of Darkers. Drastically underestimated. Secondly they had uncovered what they hoped was a complete map of Darker controlled planets.
Soon after this revelation the Star, along with all the Alliance ships at New Port Dillon were ordered to proceed immediately to Homebase 2 on New Vegas. En masse the slowly growing fleet left Dillon behind and jumped as soon as they left the atmosphere. Despite having a busy year-round tourist injury, New Vegas’s starport was hard pressed to handle the sudden influx of traffic. As soon as all the ships were on the ground, assignments were handed out. The Star, along with three other ships were tasked with investigating NSC-13356. An isolated star-system containing one of the nearest planets identified as a Darker colony. Wiles would be in charge of the mission and their orders were simple. Get in, get as much info as possible and get out.
Wiles again requested a gunner to supplement his crew. Captain McWarren realised that getting one through normal channels in time would be impossible an she wanted to make sure that Wiles had every chance of completing his mission successfully. She decided to loan her gunner, Takashi to Wiles for the duration of the mission.
After completing a final check on fuel, supplies and ammunition the Star lead the group into orbit and together they made the jump to Underspace. As the timer hit five minutes to realspace the crew assumed their positions and the Stars weapons were powered up.
Reversion was a little anti-climatic. Preliminary scans indicated the group were the only ships in the system. Uttering a small prayer of thanks, they proceeded on mission. According to their intelligence, the Darkers were only present on one planet in the system. Using passive scans only, and running silent, they performed discrete scans of the planets surface and detected a settlement. There was a limit to what they could using just passive sensors. Going to active sensors would tip the Darkers off to their presence. A plan was formulated. When all the ship’s Jump Drives had recharged, they would execute a burn dive into the atmosphere and perform a low-level flyby scan of the settlement before breaking atmosphere and jumping to a safe system.
In the meantime, Tyler suggested that they use the recharge time to perform a cursory survey of the other planetary bodies to make sure there was no other Darker presence. They split up to widen their survey area and not long after they had begun, the Star received a message. One of the ships had discovered a derelict floating in the systems asteroid belt. They piped a video signal back to the Star and they saw the disturbing sight of the hull of the derelict daubed in graffiti in several dozen languages. Including a few which appeared to be entirely unique. In the few they understood, it appeared someone had scrawled “Abomination” across the hull.
Fifteen minutes later the Star was alongside the derelict. The decision was made to board and investigate but there was concern about possible contamination. No one knows what happens to someone to become a Darker. Considering the condition of the hull, it was possible that this ship had either been exposed to that process or those who had. The other ships were ordered to proceed on mission and perform the flyby and jump back to New Vegas as soon as their Jump Drives recharged.
Tyler worked with Samson to seal the port cargo bay, workshop and med-bay and transform them into a quarantine section. Of the crew only Wiles, Tyler and Ford would board the derelict. Samson would remain onboard the Star with Takeshi who would act as pilot in case something happened. Dressed in armoured e-suits, the boarding party sealed the airlock and stepped onto the ship.
Ford ran an atmospheric analysis and confirmed that the air was breathable with all the gases in the right combination. No biological or chemical toxins were detected although the Personal Analysis Device was only capable of detecting known contaminants. The only thing wrong with the ships environment was a lack of gravity and deep cold.
The boarding party split up with Wiles heading towards the engine room, Ford to the ships mainframe and Tyler to the bridge. Wiles worked to get main power back up and was able to bring the reactor on-line pretty quickly. With power restored, Ford began to being up the ships logs and Tyler ran through the flight check-list. Apart from a few hull breaches the ship was completely space worthy. The breaches were obviously isolated and the ship still had its atmosphere. A few quick patches would have sealed them. The hull might not have passed a check for atmospheric re-entry but there were plenty of space stations where the necessary repair work could have been completed. There was absolutely no reason why the ship had been abandoned. Even the Darkers wouldn’t discard a perfectly good starship, would they?
After reviewing the logs they determined the ship was a cargo ship that was being used as a supply ship back in the Inner Sphere. It was far off course. The only oddity in the logs were a reference to one of the crew that had signed on shortly before the final entry. A young women that for some reason had caused other crewmembers to be uncomfortable around her. No specific reason was given beyond descriptions of “spooky” and “disturbing”.
The three of them performed a deck-by-deck search and discovered that most of the cargo had been removed. They only exception being the ships own food stores. Most of the crew’s personal effects were still aboard. Except the spooky girl’s, her quarters had been stripped.
Wiles decided to bring the ship back to settled space. After Tyler retrieved some extra life support packs for their suits, the Star jumped back to New Vegas using coordinates Ford had preprogrammed. Still concerned about possible contamination, Wiles ordered Ford to program a jump for the Colorado system. Uninhabited since a super-volcanic eruption a year ago had rendered the planet of New Denver uninhabitable and forced the evacuation of the Port Dillon colony. It was a perfect system to jump into. The derelict’s Jump Engines were charged and programmed with the jump.
After reverting to realspace, they only had to wait 30 minutes before a Colonial Alliance medical ship jumped in and came alongside. Ford, Tyler and Wiles transferred over to the quarantine facility and underwent a barrage of tests before being pronounced clean.
When they returned to New Vegas analysis was already being preformed on the flyby scans. Analysis of camera footage confirmed the presence of graffiti in a language now confirmed to be unique to Darkers. The settlement had a decentralised, cluster layout in a natural depression. The only anomaly was a small building some way distant from the settlement. This building had Abomination daubed on its side. During a discussion on the sensor readings, Tyler voiced the opinion that a 4.5 megaton nuclear warhead detonated at an altitude of 150 meters would pretty much vaporise the entire settlement.
Unsurprisingly some voiced their opposition to a nuclear strike. Several buildings in settlement had features that indicated that they were actually partially buried spacecraft. Others suggested that such a provocative move could be disastrous. With their suspected forces greatly outnumbering the Alliance it was possible that until now the Darkers had just been toying with the Boondocks. If they went on the offensive then the Darkers could attack in force any wipe out the Boondocks all the way to the Inner Sphere.
However, the fact was inescapable. Ubanto, Thermoplyae and now Zeus Beta. The Boondocks were already at war and it was time to start fighting back. If the Union or the Accord were not going to do it, then it would be up to the Colonial Alliance.
The MV Shooting Star 2 was equipped with a single orbit-to-ground nuclear weapon and Commodore Wiles was given the necessary launch codes. After jumping into the outskirts of NSC-13356, they waited until their jump drive had fully charged. Pushing their engines to maximum they dived into the systems gravity well and headed for their target. As they approached the planet they lit up their active sensors to obtain a firing solution and as they scanned the planet’s surface the determined that the Darker settlement had been abandoned. The buried ships appeared to have departed taking the Darkers with them. This didn’t change their mission. As soon as they were in range, they launched the missile watched as the settlement was consumed by nuclear fire.
The first shot in the Darker War had been fired.
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