SCHISM: Chapter Two

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Gemini
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SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby Gemini » Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:32 am

SCHISM
CHAPTER TWO: I KNOW THE PIECES FIT


Home sweet home, thought Jack as he stood in Admiral Goodenberg’s office.

“So, let me get this straight,” Goodenberg said, sitting at his desk with his hands folded in his lap.  Jack had not been offered a seat.  “A Terran is found collaborating with Protoss.  Staff Sergeant Skillen identifies him as Umojan, which opens up a whole other can of worms that I’ll get to in a moment.  And instead of bringing him on board for questioning, you put a round in his head.”

“You missed the part where he had an unknown device in his hand and would not relinquish it even upon threat of death,” Jack replied.  “It could have been a bomb, sir.”

Goodenberg raised his eyebrows.  “Yes, well, you certainly look like you were blown to pieces before you had a chance to shoot him.”  He unfolded his hands and held them in front of his face, fingertips touching.  “It’s my understanding he activated it before his death.  Did anything explode?”

“No, sir.  Permission to speak freely?”

Goodenberg gestured with his hand to go ahead.

Sherall shifted his weight.  “When you wanted me back on your team, I agreed, with one major caveat: that you would not question my methods, or limit my ability to be in command of an operation.  You made it very explicit that you trusted my gut instinct and it was why you were offering to restore my commission.”

Goodenberg exhaled slowly as he listened.  “I’m not sure that applies here, Captain Sherall.”

“Like hell it doesn’t, sir.  I won’t stand here and let you armchair quarterback my operations.  I had my orders, and I carried them out flawlessly.”  He clenched his jaw and placed his hands behind his back, standing straight.  “If you were in my position, Admiral, you’d have done the same.”

Goodenberg cocked his head.  “If I’d have done the same, Captain, you would have been dead years ago.”

Jack bit the inside of his cheek and looked away.  Sure, they were on the same side now, but it hadn’t always been that way.  Goodenberg was Alpha Squadron, one of Duke’s men.  Before they’d joined up, a lot of blood had been shed between them and the Sons of Korhal.  Jack had personally killed men under the command of Goodenberg, and Goodenberg had every right and opportunity to shoot Jack dead as an enemy combatant on the field of battle.  But he didn’t.  Jack sighed, and returned his gaze to Goodenberg.  “I laid down arms that day.  This guy didn’t.”

Goodenberg sighed, and shrugged.  “You’re right, of course.  I did agree to give you full operational freedom.”  He leaned forward.  “But Captain, keep this in mind: I could have ordered you to take the position, and I didn’t.  Operational freedom is not carte blanche.”  He leaned back.  “Now, onto the other issue.  The Umojans.”

Jack glanced at the floor for a moment, then back at Goodenberg.  “We don’t know that the Protectorate was involved with the Protoss.  Skillen hasn’t been able to identify who he was, just that he’d seen him before on Umoja.  He could be a civilian, or a private contractor.  We’ll need to investigate further before we have anything conclusive.”

Goodenberg stood up and faced the window of his office, staring out at the planet’s surface far below.  “We’re mere light-years away from Umoja.  This is a strategic intersection between Dominion and Protectorate space, and Minister Jorgensen has long expressed pro-alien sentiment.  Diplomatic relations have been shaky at best in recent years, and there have been more than a few attempts at espionage going both ways.”  He sighed, and turned back to face Sherall.  “I understand your desire to exonerate the Protectorate.  I’ve had about enough of Terrans fighting Terrans when there are far more dangerous enemies out in the galaxy.  But we should prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that this was the beginning stages of a hostile incursion.  That’s all.  Dismissed.”

Jack saluted, and headed for the door.

“Oh, and Captain?” Goodenberg called after him.  Jack turned around to face him.  “I understand you and Staff Sergeant Skillen are close, and given your history together I can understand.  But out of all the Umojans in the sector, he knew this man.  I won’t dismiss my suspicions as easily.”

Sherall nodded.  “Understood, sir,” he said, and walked out the door.

Now that that’s over with, Jack thought, I should probably get around to the sickbay.  Tina’s bound to be pitching a fit.




“And where the hell have you been?” Doctor Tina Iglesias demanded as Jack strode through the door.  She was tending to a marine who had a nasty gash from a psi-blade across his chest.

“Debriefing, Doctor Iglesias,” Jack replied.

“Debriefing my ass,” she shot back.  “You take a bullet to the helmet, you come straight here.  No exceptions.  You could have a concussion.”

Jack grinned and pointed his thumb to an empty patient bed.  “Right, well, while you’re with that private, I’ll just pop over here and take a nap.”

“Your funeral,” she replied.  “I’m almost done patching Private LeRoy up.”  She placed a device on the private’s chest, who winced and tried not to yelp in pain.  “Shut up, you baby,” she said, rolling her eyes.  “You had a gun.  Ain’t nobody’s fault but your own you went charging to close-quarters with that mouthless duck.”

Jack smirked.  “That’s nothing.  I remember this one time he went charging into a cave full of hatching kakaru.  We’ve started calling that stunt a ‘LeRoy.’”

“Okay,” Tina said, pulling the device off.  The gash on his chest was closed up, leaving only a faint scar.  “That should fix it up.  Hold off on any upper-body exercises for a few weeks though.  Wouldn’t want you to tear something.”

Private LeRoy stood up, putting his shirt back on, saluting Sherall, and then wincing, putting his arm to his chest.  “Sorry, sir,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it, LeRoy,” Jack said.  “Dismissed.”

“Now, as for you,” Tina said, turning to Jack, who was sitting on a bed.  “Hold still.”

She pulled out a flashlight and shined it into Jack’s eyes.  “Good,” she said, “your pupils are normal.  No concussion.”  She stuck her tongue out at Jack.  “See?  That’s all you had to do before visiting the admiral.  Make a girl think you’re trying to avoid her.”

She started to walk away, but Jack grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to him.  “Yeah, or inversely, the admiral might think I’m skipping a debriefing to hit on some lady-types.”

Tina smiled, put her other hand on Jack’s, and grabbed his pinky, starting to twist, pulling his arm behind his back.  Jack yelped in pain.  “And who are you more afraid of, captain?” she said with a devilish grin.  “The admiral, or me?

“Definitely you, ma’am,” he replied, wincing.

She let his finger go and started walking away.  “And don’t you forget it.  Now get the hell outta my sickbay.”




Next stop was the armory.  The doors slid open for Jack to reveal a massive hangar full of tanks, goliaths, vultures, and loads upon loads of weapon racks.  Master Gunnery Sergeant Hank Connor was barking orders, getting all the equipment put back in its proper place.

“Master Gunns!” Jack said.

Connor turned around and saluted Jack.  “Sir!” he replied.

Jack returned the salute.  “As you were.”

Connor turned back around in time to see two forklifts almost run into each other.  “HEY!  HEY!  HEY!” he shouted.  The forklifts stopped.  “The good Lord saw fit to give y’all two eyeballs so you could see what the hell you were doin’!  Carlson, if you break something again I’ll see you on latrine duty for a month!”  He turned back to Jack.  “Something I can do for you, sir?”

“Just doing my post-operation rounds, making sure everything checks out and nothing’s broken.”

“Well, aside from the lance coolie’s eyesight, nothing major.  My tank took a few scratches from the drop but it ain’t nothing I can’t hammer out and paint over.”

“How about infantry suits?”

Connor rubbed his neck.  “Well, we lost four men down there today, so we’ve been seeing what we can salvage from what’s left of their suits.”

Jack shook his head.  “No.”

“Sir?” Connor asked, cocking his head.  “SOP is to salvage anything we can from infantry armor.”

“I don’t care what the regs say,” Jack replied.  “We’re not vultures, picking at the scraps of our dead.  Suits will be buried with their owners.”

Connor saluted.  “Yes, sir!”




“So the sniper says ‘That’s okay, I’ll only need one bullet,’” Craig Skillen said, leaning against a table while joking with the covert team.  The punchline got a laugh out of two of them, Gary Taggart and Michael Donovan, but the head of the covert team, Justin McCormick, was silent.

After the laughter died down, he spoke up.  “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, and probably from the same person you did.”

Craig’s face soured.  “Aw, c’mon man, don’t go there.”

“Then don’t tell his jokes,” McCormick replied.  He was fiddling with the device they’d gotten off the Umojan, trying to figure out what it did.

The door slid open and Jack came in.  The four men snapped to attention, saluting.  Jack returned the salute.  “At ease,” he replied, and turned to McCormick.  “How’s the progress going on that device?”

“Far as I can tell, it’s a trans-stellar transmitter.  It doesn’t have any input other than the button, though, so I can’t imagine it would be any more complex than a remote detonator.”

“So it did set off a bomb, just not where we were?” Jack asked.

“Not necessarily.  Could be a simple ‘oh shit’ button to warn his buddies, could be anything really.  It’s entirely possible we’ll never find out.”

Jack nodded.  “Well, find out what frequency it broadcasts on.  If nothing else we’ll keep an ear open for future signals.”

“Yes, sir,” McCormick replied.

Jack turned to Craig.  “Craig, what are you doing here?  Keeping these guys entertained?”

“Yeah, you know me,” Craig said, pushing himself off the table he was leaning on.  “Someone’s gotta be the comic relief on this ship.  Everyone else is all ‘stone-faced secret mission, for the glory of the empire’ types.”

“Attention all hands,” came a voice on the intercom.  “Warp jump in five minutes.  Secure all loose items and prepare for FTL.”

“That’s odd,” Jack said.  “We weren’t scheduled to jump for another ten hours.”  While the three coverts and Craig started securing the room, Jack walked over to the wall and held down the intercom.  “This is Captain Sherall to the bridge.  Why are we jumping ahead of schedule?”

“The admiral requests your presence on the bridge, sir,” came the reply from a bridge officer.  “On the double.”

“On my way.”




Admiral Goodenberg turned away from the bridge window as he heard the door slide open and made eye contact with Jack.  “Well, that was quick,” he said.

“Orders said on the double,” Jack replied.  “So I ran.  Why are we going to warp ahead of schedule?”

“Distress call about half a light-year out,” replied Goodenberg.  “The DSV Snowshoe.”

Jack’s blood ran cold for a minute.  “I’m sorry sir, did I hear you correctly?  The Snowshoe?”

Goodenberg nodded.  “The one and only.”

The Dominion Science Vessel Snowshoe had attained near-legendary status.  It vanished without a trace three years ago, and ever since it had a Flying Dutchman mythos built up.  Nearly every ship’s captain told a tale of seeing a science vessel out the window that did not register on any ship’s scanner, bearing the Snowshoe’s registry.  Jack usually dismissed those stories as superstitious and suspected that a good chunk of the naval officers were just lying about seeing it to one-up each other at the bar.  He assumed it got too close to Zerg space and disappeared like all the others that ventured to Char, but here it was, sending a distress signal.

“The signal’s genuine?” Jack asked.  “Not just a hoax?”

“It’s the real McCoy,” Goodenberg replied.

Lieutenant Fitz, the ship’s pilot, hit the intercom.  “All hands, brace for warp jump in T minus ten.”

Jack grabbed onto a railing and gripped it tightly with both hands as the pilot continued the countdown.”

“T minus five, four, three, two, one, WARP!”

The room seemed to bend and shift around Jack.  He could hear the metal skeleton of the ship creaking, and his fingers and toes started to tingle and then swell.  He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, trying to settle his stomach as it started churning.  After about a minute, things settled down a bit and Jack opened his eyes again.  The stars were distorted by the warp field and were shifting position, very slowly.

“Our speed is approximately twenty-five thousand c,” said Fitz.  “Arrival in ten minutes.”

Jack looked at Goodenberg incredulously.  “Sir, with respect, that’s a suicidal speed.”

“Only for extended periods,” Goodenberg replied.  “Ten minutes won’t kill us.  And I want to get there before someone else does.”  He gave Sherall a smirk.  “Don’t tell a navy man how to run a ship, and I won’t tell a marine how to ground-pound.”

Jack steadied himself as the churning in his stomach slowly progressed.  At the five minute mark, the ship was rumbling.  By seven minutes, it was visibly shaking, and with thirty seconds to go, Jack could hear the ship’s hull start to twist.

“T minus ten seconds to warp drop,” Fitz said.

Jack felt like he couldn’t hold his stomach any longer, and was about to vomit when BAM.  They dropped out of warp.  His stomach settled down, the room returned to a normal shape, and the swelling in his fingers subsided.

“All right,” said Admiral Goodenberg.  “Let’s see what’s out there.”

Ensign Cadence, the science officer, tapped away at a console, attempting to find the Snowshoe.  “I’ve found her, sir,” she said.  “Well, what’s left of her.  Bringing it on display.”

The main bridge display lit up, showing a science vessel torn into a hundred pieces, slowly drifting apart in cold space.  “Damn,” said Goodenberg.  “Any hostiles on the scope?”

“Negative,” Cadence replied.  “Not picking up any body heat either.  There’s no survivors.”

Goodenberg sighed and sat in his chair.  “Okay.  Signal the black box, if it survived.  We’ll want to download whatever’s on that.”

“Already doing so, sir,” Cadence replied.  “We’re downloading as we speak.”

“Bring us in closer,” Goodenberg said to Fitz.  “I want to get some better visuals.”

Fitz grabbed the flight stick and pulled back on it, angling the battlecruiser toward the wreckage.  The engines hummed and the ship vibrated softly as it propelled itself forward.  They were now almost inside the debris field.

“All stop,” Goodenberg said.

“Aye sir, all stop,” Fitz replied.

Jack walked closer to the display to get a good look at the debris.  “That’s weird,” he said.  “If they were attacked, you think you’d see some sort of carbon scoring on the hull.  Even if it was just an engine failure, there should be some burns visible.  This looks like it fell apart.”

Goodenberg stood up and joined Jack at the display.  “Keen eye,” he said.  “Ensign Cadence, can you confirm?”

Cadence nodded.  “I’m not picking up any burned wreckage.  The engine is fully intact and undamaged.  But...”  She paused, furrowing her brow, looking at her screen.  “I’m picking up a high amount of tachyon radiation.”

Goodenberg looked at her.  “We’re not a science vessel, Ensign.  I don’t know what that is.”

“Tachyons are particles that move faster than light.  You almost never find them anywhere.  It may be a clue as to what happened to the ship.”

Goodenberg nodded.  “Well, I don’t think I want to stick around to have it happen to us too.  As soon as we’re finished downloading the black box, take us to a safe distance, Lieutenant Fitz.”

No sooner had he finished giving the order when the ship shook violently and started to drift closer to the debris.  Goodenberg yelled out “What’s going on?!”

“Something’s pulling us in!” Fitz shouted.  “I’m at full reverse and we’re still moving forward!”

“Can we do an emergency warp?”

“No sir, the engine’s still too hot!”

Goodenberg punched the intercom.  “All hands, brace for impact!  All guns are to open fire on debris immediately!”

Jack grabbed onto the railing and watched the display.  As they were drawn closer to the debris field, a massive vortex suddenly opened up in front of them, threatening to devour the ship whole.

“What the hell is THAT thing?!” Goodenberg shouted.

“I have no idea, sir!” Cadence replied in a panicked voice.  “But it’s pulling us straight in!”

Goodenberg gripped the armrests of his chair and gritted his teeth.  “I won’t go out like this,” he hissed.  “Charge the Yamato cannon!”

“Sir!” Cadence protested.  “We have no idea what that will--”

“DO IT NOW!” Goodenberg shouted.

“Aye sir,” Fitz replied.  “Yamato charged and ready.”

“Fire.”

A shrill pulsation of sound rose in volume as the ship buzzed with energy.  The front of the ship glowed a bright yellow, and the Erasmus shuddered as the massive beam of energy blasted toward the vortex.  As it struck, the vortex seemed to shrink as if it flinched at the impact, but the subsequent explosion sent a tendril of energy whipping right toward the ship, too fast for Fitz to react.  It made contact...

And the shaking of the ship instantly stopped.  Everything went dark as main power went down, and then lit up again when the backup power came on.  Goodenberg took a moment to breathe, and looked out the window.  The vortex had gone, and so had the ship debris.

“Restore visuals,” he ordered.

The display lit up again.  On screen were two dozen Protoss warships directly behind the Erasmus, and closing fast.  An alien voice broadcast over the ship’s intercom.  “Unregistered Terran vessel, stand down and prepare to be boarded.  Any resistance will result in the destruction of your ship.”

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Re: SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby Pr0nogo » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:14 am

Points for naming the chapter a line from Schism (by Tool).


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Gemini
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Re: SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby Gemini » Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:32 pm

You'll notice that Chapter One was also a line from Tool.

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Re: SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby Pr0nogo » Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:54 pm

Same song as well.

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Re: SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby Lavarinth » Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:24 pm

That was definitely an intense ending.
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Re: SCHISM: Chapter Two

Postby DrumsofWar » Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:58 pm

Nice cutaways between different people and areas of the base until the action started up again.  Characters seem solid but you might want to characterize them more or at least describe how they look.

Hope to see more.


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