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New Gibson Stories - Blue Mesa Incident - The Helmsman

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Posted (edited)

Prologue - The Helmsman

Friday, 25 March 2460

On frozen New Gibson, darkness stirs  underneath the cold, dead planet.

The Hengsha Arcology, a testament to humanities willingness to adapt to the most inhospitable places in the universe. It was built upon the facade of the frozen Mount Tian where, at the top of the facility, lies the Helmsman's office. A complex built for the ruler of New Gibson, and his advisers. A structure that signifies the strength and determination of its people, and the resolve of its leader.

Outside of the frozen window looming over the plains of New Gibson, the office computers come to life, stutterers open, breaking the twilight's frost with a crystalline sound. The doors are first opened by the janitor. As he peers within the office, he sees stations with blue holoscreens adjacent to the windows flickering with lights, and in the middle of the office, two steps leading to a holotable surrounded by chairs. In the far right corner, a door with a helm symbol, as far as he knows, it's the station Helmsman's personal office.

He does his job, cleaning the metal floors and wipes away the small frost gathered in the corners of the room. Satisfied, he turns the APC on, the windows start to defrost and vents start twirling. The officers and assistants start to come in the office. They're dressed in blue attire with different stars on their shoulder representing both their rank and the responsibilities they carry. Smiles are shared and good days are offered. Each of the 20 stations start to be slowly filled, with their blue holoscreens, tactical information, encoding and other sensitive information's beginning to hum with life at the taps of their respective users.

And at precisely 7:00 AM NGT (New Gibson Time), the Helmsman enters the office, being assaulted by many aromas and flavors of coffee, he smiles slightly. Dressed in blue and gold-tinted admiral attire, with grayish short hair, tired eyes, and a neatly kept full beard. Everyone rises and slightly salutes. "Morning everyone", says the Helmsman in his raspy voice, as responses from each staff member echo in the now comfortably clean, warm room.

A day of work, like any other, begins.

Except...

12:45 PM NGT – New Gibson Hengsha Arcology Helmsman Office.

The office bustles with energy as each officer attends to their stations.

"Helmsman!", cries out the Telecomms officer.

"Yes Comms?", says the Helmsman.

"We have a priority comm from a shuttle, coming from Blue Mesa! They...", she gasps. The Helmsman rises from his chair from the middle of the offices holotable.

"Put it through Comms, main vox."

The vox comes to life, filling the room with barely audible radio sounds.

"Att-... cology... Wound-... on board... Blue M-... ntine...", the message says, distorted.

"Comms, connect to Blue Mesa, status report."

"No go sir, the comms are down, and it's not from us," she says as she types on the holoscreen quickly in search for a solution.

"Keep working on that, Hangar?"

"Sir?" says the hangar officer, staying straight into his chair.

"Prep the pad for injured, decontamination procedure Alpha Zero One, activate the National Guard, it seems we have an... issue." the Helmsman sighs as he grabs a vox microphone and adjusts it on his head.

Throughout the Arcology, a ping and holo displays within each available monitor, as the flag of New Gibson appears and the voice of the Helmsman is heard.

"Good afternoon everyone, at 12:50 PM NGT today, we have received an unauthorized escape shuttle launch from the Blue Mesa Research Facility. The National Guard is now activated and sent to protect and lock-down Hangar One and Train Station One leading to Blue Mesa. Please stay clear of the area as we are trying to figure out a solution to this. In the meantime, no shuttles or trains will be leaving for an indeterminate amount of time. Spend time with your family or friends travelers, we'll sort this out soon," the vox plays a simple jiggle and closes.

Life goes on in Hengsha. The massive hangar doors from Train Station One close, as blinking yellow lights signal the environmental hazard alarm and armed forces lock down the station, reporting no contamination issues. They are ordered to hold the area until the situation is resolved.

13:35 PM NGT – New Gibson Hengsha Arcology Helmsman Personal Office.

The Helmsman enters his quarters, adjacent to the main office. He's greeted with the old familiar smell of tobacco and jasmine, his desk residing forwards near a window overseeing the frozen plains and plants with bio-luminescent properties dotting the office.

He puts a palm on his forehead and sighs.

"Damn it... I knew it was a matter of time until the eggheads step over their own dick and unearth something," he mutters as he sits down on his chair.

His desk was clean, tidy, with only a holopic depicting himself and his wife, together with their daughter and son in the backdrop of a day at the Hengsha Zoo and a laptop. How many days had passed he wonders as he touches the picture and purses his lips. His fingers eventually slip on the laptop in front of him.

He opens the laptop, and leans on the side to press a small indenture on the side of the table. With a click, it spits out a small chip. He presses the chip next to the laptop's integrated circuit receiver.

The laptop whirls and the standard OS is replaced with a green overlay of a command console. The Helmsman hesitates. He looks over to the window, the day is still young even if it's dark outside, and it's starting to snow lightly, the light over the horizon reflecting on the snowflakes like the stars in the sky.

He waits, but reassures himself that his decision is sound. He starts writing in the command console. After he is done, he takes the chip and inserts it in the hidden compartment inside of his desk, with a click, it's as if the little pocked is invisible.

He raises up from his chair and, with a confident stride, he goes outside of his office. His laptop screen blinking twice and then shutting down...

ENCRYPTION PROTOCOL ACTIVATED.

ASSIGNMENT REQUEST: RECEIVED.

SELECTED ALERT LEVEL: RED.

ACTIVATE UNIT: NEW GIBSON DELTA SQUAD.

PENDING HEMOPHILIC AUTHENTICATION.

.

AUTHENTICATION CONFIRMED.

SQUAD ACTIVATED.

AUTHORIZATION OF NEW GIBSON EXPERIMENTAL EQUIPMENT: GRANTED.

AUTHORIZATION OF EAGLE: GRANTED.

PENDING COORDINATES AND MISSION OBJECTIVE.

.

COORDINATES AND OBJECTIVE RECEIVED.

ETA TO COORDINATES: 1 HOUR.

.

BRIEFING AFTER OPERATION END REQUESTED.

.

CONFIRMED.

CLOSING COMMUNICATION CHANNEL.

Edited by MarauderW

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Posted (edited)

CHAPTER 1 - Blue Mesa Charlie Foxtrot

Friday, 25th of March 14:40 PM NGT – New Gibson, Outside of Hengsha Arcology

On the plains outside of the Arcology, a light breeze blows throughout the frozen wastes.

The plains are vast, endless... the only sound apart from crystal ice and snowy winds is a thunderous sound, like the engines of old, as it ripples through the air.

The Eagle.

A special project, designed by New Gibson's engineers, used for the first time by the squad leading the investigation on the strange silence that has befallen Blue Mesa. The Eagle shakes the skies with its dual-engine's roar, white and black striped, it rides the mild weather with ease. Inside, a thinly armored sheet protects them from the elements. The four steel themselves for the trial ahead.

 

"What a beautiful sight..." he sighs.

"What? Don't tell me you still like the look of plain white Boss," says Wierz in a slightly high pitched voice.

"Hah, like he'll ever get over it, man's got ice for blood," he says in a deep growling voice.

"Like that one time Cuts, when-", says Phory before being interrupted.

"Cut the chatter team, we'd best do an equipment check before we land," he says as he turns from the small slit window to face his team. "You know the drill, internals, weapons, stocks and don't forget the knives," he points to every item in the item rack in the back of the Eagle.

"Right, let's see, experimental weapon number 1," he picks up the weapon from the steel wall in the back of the Eagle, it is light and slim.

"Designed to cut through almost anything, biological or otherwise, gotta love them boys in R&D, twelve shots with 24 in the magazine, sights, and a modular lightweight design," he starts distributing the weapons to his team.

"Yeah yeah Cuts, let's not be too trigger happy okay? Let's see..." she starts taking out smaller items from the item rack. "Four grenades, loaded and primed, four flash-bangs. Flash-bangs?" she shrugs, as she stuffs them into her external pockets.

"Hey Phory, Cuts, any name for these new babies?" he says, as he lifts one of them in the air and points his finger to it.

"We'll see about that, best weapon names are forged in fire Wierz."

 

Wierz shrugs while a pinging sound and a bright red flashing light blinks in the Eagle's main corridor.

 

"All right everyone, suit sensors on, we're closing on Blue Mesa." he says as he straps his gear and makes a final check for everyone's suits and equipment.

 

The Eagle approached a large, mountainous wall of ice. In front its vast walls lies a large empty landing pad, covered in snow and ice. If not for the GPS signal, it would be invisible.

 

"Blue Mesa, do you copy, over?" says the first pilot.

"Blue Mesa, we are inbound on your location, responding to your security alert, please copy, over."

"Seems like their air turrets are offline" says the second pilot.

"Much like everything else, no readings on sensors for any outside company, and no contact on the radio."

He nods, "Preparing primary thrusters to land."

 

The Eagle touches down on the landing pad, snow lifting in the air, gripping its talons on the pads secure doc graspers.

 

The light inside the main corridor turns green. "Here we go..."

 

The door hisses open, as all four jump outside into the cold weather of New Gibson. They make their way to the main airlock, facing the large ice wall. Snow lightly cover them...

 

"Team we'll sit back for extraction. Signal once clear so we spool and bounce, over?" says the pilot.

"Roger that, keep her ready."

"Woah...", a massive metal hangar door is in front of them, sealed shut by ice. Two airlock doors come out of the hangar door with the flag of Blue Mesa on top of them, half covered in snow.

"Blue Mesa sure knows how to impress," he laughs, as he grabs his multi-tool from his pocket.

"Wierz, you know what to do, the rest of you cover him," he points out, spreading out in a circular pattern around him.

"All right, let's see... Seems like it's operational at least, has power," he nods.

"Boss, what's our objective again?" she asks, shruging.

"Really Phory?"

"I-I just..." she sighs.

"Calm down, Phory, find the captain's quarters for a map of the place, grab item 3412, initiate phoron purge."

"R-right! I can't wait, I mean, you don't get to set off a phoron nuke everyday right?" she says excitedly.

"No, and make sure we're far from it when you set it up, remember training?" he puts his hand on his black and red striped EVA mask.

"Y-yeah... yeah. I won't disappoint. I promise."

"Got it!" he exclaims.

"Everyone, get in, lets see what mess we've gotten ourselves in."

The airlock doors open with a metallic groan, despite the accumulated ice. They all gather inside as the doors shut behind them and the automated pressurization begins.

"Keep close and stay alert," he says as he grips his weapon with both hands and bringing it to bear.

 

The doors hisses open as they step out, one behind another, weapons at the ready. However, they are met with a gruesome sight... In front of them lies a massive hangar, Blue Mesa banners hang around the many entrances that dot the walls. The floor is filled with improvised barricades and blinking yellow lights signal an emergency evacuation is in effect.

They scatter slightly, checking the floor filled with...

 

"Bodies, lot's of them."

"Jesus..." she says as she grabs her cross on her neck.

"The station's on low lights, probably to conserve energy, I recommend we turn on our helmet lights."

"Do it team, stay close."

 

The helmet lights turn on, illuminating the hangar. Crates, barricades and some equipment lie all around.

 

"It seems like they dug in," he said, kneeling down and checking the bodies.

"Not well enough."

"They... Boss, they seem like they were cut into pieces!" she gasps as she turns over a couple of people laying on the ground. The bodies were wearing medical, science, security and civilian clothes. Mostly science personnel.

"Do any of you recognize what could have done this?"

"No idea... Holo's don't have us fighting whatever this was, maybe a robot gone mad with a saw?"

Phory closes the eyes of the men and women she finds on the floor. "... Where do we go now Boss?"

Boss points to the top of the indoor hangar. "That's our first objective, the facilities map."

 

The Captain's Room overlooking the hangar contained everything they needed to navigate the maze of rooms in Blue Mesa.

 

"There should be some way to get up there..." she said as she moved towards the center of the hall, looking at the room up top.

"We could take the shortcut," he begins to take out an item from his backpack.

"Shortcut?"

"Here, we'll climb our way up," he takes out a type of gun with a sharp spike and a length of rope attached to it.

"Is... is that from the minin' boys?" she asked, stunned.

"Yes, we can use it to break through the window and climb inside," he positions the grapple on the floor.

"Thank you R&D..." he chuckles.

 

The team gathers up, the sharp spike breaks through the Captain's window as they zip up to the room that once held the leaders of Blue Mesa. The Captain's quarters contain many consoles, unpowered, however one of them is still online. The door leading to the main corridor seems welded shut and it's control panel is destroyed.

 

"What... happened here?"

"Boss... the captain," he says as he notices the captain, over the slowly light-blue screen working console.

"What was he trying to do?"

Boss takes his body off and wipes the console clean, "It seems he was the one who allowed the shuttle to take off, he opened the hangar doors. He also was trying to... open the hangar airlock lockdown," he sighs.

Phory drags the Captain's body to a nearby chair, chanting a small prayer and looking at his wounds. "We have a problem..."

"Wierz, get the map, what's the issue Phory?" he turns to her as Wierz works on the console.

"The Captain's wounds... they're not the same as the ones downstairs," she says as she points to the smoking holes in the Captain's chest.

"Weapons, not ours. Powerful, maybe..."

"I got them! I got the map, the item's past a room called Test Chamber N-03 in the next block. Wow this place is bigger than I thought..." he says as he syncs up the map with the team's hardsuits.

"All right, time to make our way there, any other useful info on the server?" he asks as he turns to his team.

"No... the data's been purged, except for the map and-"

"Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"Quiet."

 

Tingling, metallic sounds come from the maintenance shaft in front of them.

 

"That's where we need to-" suddenly, the doors are forced open!

"SKREEEE!"

"What the!" he shouts.

 

A gruesomely tall monster comes out of the darkness, screeching and shuffling awkwardly, fast, towards the team.

 

"Deltas, weapons free!"

Edited by MarauderW

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I hope you allow critique on this short little story because so far, it's good but the few small mistakes widdle on me.

One, I love the coloring and formatting of the text, it's very lively and gives the text itself a much richer feeling. I like how you used it to identify the main characters, giving it a purpose and helping us identify who is who without having to bog down each line by saying their name, very nice I like that a lot. However, it also ends up making the middle part a bit hard to read as my eyes automatically jump to the colored highlights.

The story itself is good. It's an interesting concept and although the characters I feel like are a bit basic, they work as a carrier for the reader's viewpoint.
The exposition is a bit on the nose, I feel like in the case of Phory forgetting the mission you could have used the green text crawl from the prologue, which would detail the mission objective instead of just stating they received one. Also, not a fan of the initial part where you prop up the (literal) Chekhov's guns. I am guessing their precise number is going to play a role later. I personally like to describe things like that during the action so I have free space to maneuver in case something doesn't go the way I imagined in my head. But that's a matter of taste I think.
Speaking of personal taste, I believe when characters are using direct speech they should express numerals in words, not numbers. I.e "experiment number one" instead of "experiment number 1", personally it takes me out of the story, but that's like I said a matter of personal taste.

One thing I was confused about was the Helmsman's office, is it a literal helm like a helmet on his office door or does he like have a picture of the ships helm on his office? Felt a bit extraneous, mainly when he walks out the door like right after.

But anyways this is so far good, I don't have anything really negative to say about it and I hope you finish this soon.

 

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6 minutes ago, Coalf said:

*snip*


 

Thank you for the feedback Coalf! Let me explain my decisions above:

- I was very torn on whether or not to write with color, I agree that it is both good that the reader knows which character talks but it also has the issue of hurting your eyes. Since I never used this style before I decided to test it here. I tried to make the colors as neutral as possible, but I believe in the end I am still unsure if it is worth using it, for this story I will keep using it for the sake of consistency I guess.

- I was afraid they were indeed flat, the delta squad I mean, I hope to give them more personality as I write about them but I did not wish to have a page of exposition on each of them, however, please let me know if they evolve as the story continues! I will try to improve their personalities as the story goes on.

- Green text mission intro, I didn't think about that! I will have to work harder on being less rambling about stuff I think. Also, I had no idea about Chekhov's gun theory, this is amazing! Hah, literally! I will use this to my advantage for sure! Thank you. :) I will also use word numerals, I think I wanted to change that but I just forgot about it, thanks for catching it.

- I should have made it more descriptive I guess, but the door to the Helmsman's office indeed has a literal helm. The original helm that (in my headcannon) was on the ship carrying the first colonists. I assume it is a bit silly but, I imagined that the Helmsman had a sort of steampunk helm like one from an old Earth 1500's era ship.

I will take the feedback to heart, thank you again and please be on the lookout for more content coming soon! I will also advertise the new chapter on discord. 

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