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The Secret Adventures of Glitterthorn: Wreck Of The Nemesis – Chapter 2

Not long after I begin my tasks, I find myself starting to fall “out of love” with this ship – it’s not hard when the vessel could surely dwarf one of Earth’s great aircraft carriers. The Nemesis is at least a kilometre long, and has several decks, giving me a lot of “ground” to cover, but I have to give thanks to The Mother of Mercies that my task isn’t any harder… or made impossible by a need for additional personnel. Where would I find them…?

It is something of a grind to jog almost the full length of the ship, just to flip a switch, then come all the way back to switch something else on – or off – and then retrace my steps once more to carry out some small adjustment to some piece of equipment or other. However, I am in the best condition of my life, and it’s certainly a motivating factor to know that I either get this work done, or I’m going nowhere.

Gradually, the Nemesis quite literally comes back to life, life support and lighting restored within about an hour. I resist the urge to open up my mask and sample the refreshed atmosphere, not while the air is still laden with the dust of several hundred disintegrated human beings. I could just vent the air through the external hatches, sucking the dust out into the world outside, but… but that just feels like the most cold and dishonourable thing I could do. “Carry out whatever measures are necessary to clean up all this dust”, I instruct the ship’s computer network, “but do not dispose of the dust, or recycle it. If there are suitable containers aboard, please make use of them, and put the dust in storage. It represents the remains of intelligent beings, and we will respect that.”

“Suitable receptacles are available”, says the Nemesis, “but carrying out this procedure will delay preparations for restoration of interdimensional capability.”

“Give me a list of tasks I can complete on my own, and I’ll see to them”, I respond. “You deal with the dust, and I mean immediately.”

“Understood.”

Good. That means I don’t have to keep walking on what’s left of the crew…

Accessing a data terminal, I compare the ship’s dimensional drive to similar tried and trusted technologies that I have on record. The data matrix in my suit quickly isolates the problem that cost the crew their lives, confirms that the tasks I’ve already carried out are setting the ship up to function safely, and presents some alternative procedures that could take a good number of steps out of the equation. There is a significant technology gap, however, and I don’t think I can risk using any of those shortcuts, in case I trip any onboard safety protocols that might close everything down on me, and leave the Nemesis as so much dead metal.

Given no viable alternative, I soldier on, moving on to my next task; One down, what seems like hundreds to go. I pause when my suit sensors pick up strong air currents, and a wave of air, charged with static electricity, sweeping the corridor behind, around, then ahead of me, leaving the walls, the floor and ceiling and myself completely clear of dust. Everything is as new again – as though the ship had never before had anyone on board…

There’s no point in dwelling on any of that, not with so much work left to do. I flip another switch, close up an access panel, and the decks start to hum as one of the main power systems comes back online. “It’s alive”, I whisper to myself, joking. “Alive…!

A view-screen flickers into life. System Overview available

All right – let’s see what we’ve got, and not got:

Primary Power: 32%
Secondary Power: 38%
Structural Integrity: 77%
Propulsion Power: 35%
Life Support: 85%
Onboard Gravity Compensation: 57%

Systems Currently Offline:-
Navigation
Weapons
Defensive Systems
Internal Security Network…

No internal security? I don’t know why, but that bothers me. It’s almost as though one is tempting fate…

I’ve had “gut feelings” like this before, and they’ve never steered me wrong in the past. I could simply go onto the defensive right now, and eliminate the source of my discomfort right away… or I can allow things to unfold organically, and perhaps learn more than I could from a corpse, or a pile of steaming dust.

I consult my “master list” of tasks, and see what’s next: a master junction, just off the central corridor, is in need of adjustment, providing an intruder with a perfect opportunity to catch me… “off-guard“.

I kneel at the junction panel, disengage the locking mechanism, and grasp the handles at top and bottom. The panel has not been opened since it was originally installed, and it doesn’t move without some effort on my part…

I’m cloaked in shadow. Right on cue, the muzzle of a weapon is pressed against the back of my head. That gesture tells me a lot: the inherent warmth of the weapon indicates it is one of the organic firearms created by the denizens of this reality, also captured by the besieged Earth-folk and employed in their defence, even now that the danger to their world has come to an end. One of the “locals” would simply open fire, so this would-be assailant has to be from somewhere else…

“Don’t move”, warns the Earth-man at the other end of the disruptor rifle. “I’m guessing you understand me, ’cause you’re a lot more like me than… them…”

“Your guess is correct”, I reply, quite calmly, setting the junction cover to one side, in blatant contravention of the mystery man’s instructions, but incurring no punishment – exactly as I had expected.

“I said don’t move“, growls the Earth-man, through the face-mask of his power-assisted armoured environment suit, dark blue and steel, and the muzzle of the rifle presses that little bit harder against my head.

“Or you’ll do what?, I respond, rising and turning to face the man. “Your weapon is getting cold – or hadn’t you noticed? Your people destroyed its connection to its power supply, just as you did for all the alien technology. It’s dying. It’s useless.”

The armoured Earth-man twists the end of the slightly tapering cylinder of what looks like particularly tree-bark, and nothing happens. Partly in frustration, partly in the hope of regaining some advantage, he throws the useless weapon at me, and goes for a side-arm, but that was never going to work. I swat the rifle aside, and in the same spinning move, close the gap between us and get to the pistol on his belt before him.

“There is absolutely no point to this”, I declare, ejecting the magazine from the handgun, and emptying the chamber with a pull on the slider. “You’re on your own – and now unarmed. I, however, have plenty of weapons, and the power to activate and fire them.”

I toss the gun back to its owner. “But that doesn’t help me“, I continue. “I came here to recover this ship, and your people unknowingly gave me a ride. The least I can do is help reunite you with your team – if you will allow me.”

The Earth-man doesn’t know what to do. He’s in an alien world, on an alien ship, facing someone who might just be alien too – and to him, everything alien is evil. Maybe, just maybe, he’s more enlightened than that… that, or I’m just lucky.

“This panel”, murmurs the armoured man. “It… it’s written in English.”

“It should be”, I say to him. “The Nemesis came from Earth – but not your Earth, or your time.”

“That would sound crazy”, says the man, “but we were warned there could be difficulty transiting back to our world. We could have found ourselves in a different reality, maybe one we hadn’t poisoned…”

“Do you want to go back?”, I ask him.

“It’s all I know – and I got myself stuck here trying to save it”, the Earth-man replies.

“I would welcome some assistance, if you’re willing”, I tell him.

The man’s helmet nods, slowly, but still with some hesitation. “It’d help if I knew who – and what – I was talking to.”

The feeling is mutual, but I don’t share that. “Nemesis, can you provide us with a secure environment somewhere nearby?”, I enquire. “Also, please do two other things for me: register my companion here with the security grid, and please close all the external hatches…?

- o ( O ) o -

In a safe, and sealed chamber, we’re properly introduced, as my unexpected guest removes his helmet, revealing himself to be quite human. “Squad Leader Marcus Jonlan, Earth Special Defence”, announces the man with grey-blue eyes and closely-cropped blonde hair. “And you are…?”

I’m reluctant to reveal myself to anyone, in case word of my continued existence somehow gets back to someone who can make life difficult for a reincarnated Glitterthorn, but with this man’s help, we can both get away from here a whole lot sooner, and I need to secure his trust. I peel my mask away from my face, and let him see I have eyes, a face… ears

“You’re… you’re not from here, or Earth”, observes Jonlan, glancing to one side of my head, then the other.

I shake my head. “The Earth I am most familiar with is a younger one than yours, but not by much, and I haven’t been there very often. As far as names go, I’m rather protective of mine – hopefully ‘Agent Red’ will suffice.”

“Get me back home, and you can call yourself Arch-Duke Ludwig of The Netherlands, for all I’ll care”, says the Squad Leader. “Right now, I’m hardly in a position to argue. You do all the work, you get to pick where – and possibly when – this thing ends up.”

“I did get the ship to recognise you as non-hostile, remember”, I remind him, trying to take a more light-hearted approach, so that my guest sees I’m more human than not.

Equipped with just enough knowledge to get the work done, and a comm-link to me if he needs to know more, Squad Leader Jonlan takes on a share of getting the ship back to full operational status, and I’m thankful that he doesn’t prove to be a constant source of interruption – nor does he do anything that suggests I was mistaken to be so trusting. He genuinely wants to get home, and he’s not about to destroy his only chance.

Now and again, however, he does engage in what sounds like well-meaning banter, but still feels just a little bit like fishing for information: “So, do you do this kind of thing often…?”

I’m thinking my answer should be “Not really”, but then I remember the Titanium Warrior I stole – and wrecked. “I try not to make a habit of it”, I say instead. “Such things tend to get rather… complicated. And today is no exception.

Things quieten down on the other end of the comm-link. My message has been quite clear, and received without misunderstanding. I’m able to continue with my work, and keep a chain of thought…

***…thought…***

There it is again. More coherent this time, but definitely akin to the sensation I experienced just before I first encountered Squad Leader Jonlan. Another sentient presence, more distant this time… but intent on something – maybe making contact…

“-yone out there? Team One… …eam Two, this is… …shihara. I’m picking up a beacon on my scre… …onlan, is that you…?”

An external comms-signal, weak and intermittent. A woman, possibly in distress…

“That’s Mishihara – one of my team!”, exclaims Jonlan. “Agent, we have to help her!”

Just as I said, Such things tend to get rather… complicated.Nemesis, open a communications channel for Mister Jonlan”. I instruct the main computer, trying my best not to sound irritated. “Feed it through to me here, too…”

Jonlan’s fellow “space marine” does seem to be having some considerable technical trouble, but the Nemesis has far more powerful and sophisticated communications gear than the Earthers’ armour, and our computers find a way to make a sustainable connection. “Mishihara?”, Jonlan enquires, tentatively. “I read you, Kate – what’s your status?”

There’s a moment of silence, a pause for breath, perhaps. “Oh god, Marcus – not you, too.”

“Don’t panic”, advises the Squad Leader. “We may just have a way out of here. I’m sending you our location – hope you’re in good enough shape to make it here…”

“Looks like you picked up the same energy pattern that I did”, says the woman. “Did you find something?”

“A ship”, Jonlan tells her, “and I’m not the only one to find it. I’ll explain when you get here – if you can make it.”

“I’m physically able to cover the distance, but my armour isn’t in the best condition”, says Mishihara. “I may just have enough air – although that isn’t the biggest problem…”

A video stream comes up on my screen – and Jonlan’s. The pictures are monochrome, and patchy in quality, but what they show is clear enough. The sight of them is enough to make the Squad Leader gasp in dismay. “Are… are those…?”

“Juggernauts, yes”, replies Mishihara, and she looks up, the camera built into her helmet revealing the full, towering extent of the problem. A “herd” of massive creatures, squat and powerful, with organic weapons in place of normal limbs – each of them easily seven storeys tall – and they are all marching towards a familiar-looking extinct volcano.

“We’re about to have visitors”, I mutter. The natives may be in turmoil, but that hasn’t stopped them from sensing us – and they, too, see this vessel as their last hope.

They will, of course, have to go through me to achieve salvation – and that’s not going to happen.

…to be concluded.

TSAG101-2 (3/100)
For Gerry…