Stories from Transcendent: Admiral's Arrival and Flight Plans
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 28 May 2005, 9:14 PM
Stories from the Transcendent: Admiral's Arrival
I'd never seen perfection before. Normally one would expect that to be a beautiful lady or perhaps a muscle car, but this was neither of those. I couldn't visually compare the Pelican I was riding in to the gargantuan ship on my port, but I imagined it looked somewhat like a fly racing up the side of a skyscraper. If size was any indication of grandeur, then this was undoubtedly the most majestic ship ever created. It took thirty minutes to leave my pride and joy, the Ramora, and come aboard at the bow.
"Admiral Wordsworth, welcome to heaven, sir," The pilot said without turning to face me I smiled, nodded to the pilot through the open cockpit door, and stepped carefully off the high rear of the troop bay. Originally, an enormous welcoming party had been arranged, where champagne and food would be served and everyone would have a marvelous time. I canceled that idea quickly though, not because I wouldn't enjoy the champagne, but because it was unnecessary. I wasn't a hard ass, but my men would learn quickly that this ship would not only be the largest and most powerful ever created, but also the best crewed and staffed. A party was a luxury the new captains of normal-sized vessels could afford, but this was not an ordinary vessel.
"Fleet Admiral, welcome aboard the UNSC Transcendent, sir! I'm Commodore Joseph Perry, and I'll be acquainting you with your new ship." I reached out and shook his hand; the man had a firm grip. He was easily six foot three, with a broad, cleanly shaven chin and a perfectly cut dress uniform. Sparkling white teeth glinted through his smile, and he stood casually with both arms behind his back. Three rows of medals lined his chest, and I especially noticed the blue and white Navy Cross medal.
"Glad to be here. It's a little--bigger--than my last ship. Actually, to tell you the truth, it makes my last ship look like a tin can." I gave a little frown to add sentiment to the statement.
"That's alright sir. It made my old ship look like a tin can too. Hell, this thing makes every ship look like a tin can." He chuckled several times and ushered me to a nearby warthog. It was retrofit specifically for cruising and had high, comfortable bucket seats and air conditioning. If it weren't for the uniform olive green paint job and heavy armor I might mistaken it for one of those new civilian hogs I'd seen advertised recently.
"What was your old ship Commodore?"
"It was a frigate sir, the Prince Howzer. A true beauty that ship. We'd just gotten her out of Reyes-McLees on our first assignment, and I tell you, smooth as butter." His eyes trailed off down memory lane as he drove in a few moments of silence, but that one moment had shown me a lot about the man. Frigates weren't the most powerful ships in the world, they were damned near the weakest, but he still spoke of his ship with pride and satisfaction.
"My old ship was a carrier, the UNSC Remora. God, she was a beauty too, and I tell you they don't make 'em like her any more. Some of the boys back at the Officers Club used to tease me about her age, but I always said I liked older women. You can call me Bill, by the way, since I have a feeling we'll be working together quite often. "
"Well Bill, you can call me Joe. My friends call me Hazard though, but don't read too much into that."
He glanced wryly at me, and I laughed silently to myself. We'd been speeding through streets the size of normal highways which seemed to stretch forever. I glanced around and tried to absorb everything I was seeing. This particular portion of the ship could have been ripped straight out of a city; a bustling set of stores were lined up along either side of the main street, and there were even parking spots for off duty Marines and their families.
"I suppose you really want to know what this ship's all about don't you?"
"I don't think I'm ready to know what this ship's all about," I responded truthfully.
"Do you drink coffee admiral?"
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't."
God, that was the truth. You don't get to Admiral without a lot of long nights and early mornings on the command deck. We pulled into a small French cafe looking joint, complete with street-side tables and everything. If not for the glaring overhead luminescence nobody would realize the restaurant was actually onboard of a military vessel. To call the Transcendent a cruise liner would betray her lineage and purpose, but to call her a warship would belittle her beauty and craftsmanship. I unhooked the safety harness and stepped onto the sidewalk, and simultaneously ten dining soldiers and crew stood and saluted. I quickly saluted them back, smiled, and followed Perry through the dark wooden doors and into the dimly lit restaurant.
"Welcome to Cafe Du Monde, Fleet Admiral! We've heard you'd be coming aboard today, but we weren't expecting you. Come, come this way; I'll prepare you a table." The Maitre d' graciously smiled and beckoned us to a small corner table where we'd have some privacy. It was all probably a lie though; Joe and the host were probably friends, and for a few bucks from the maitre d' he'd get his tab taken care of and I'd be in good graces with the cafe manager. I didn't mind though, a little wining and dining never hurt my feelings. I ordered something called a beignet, a delightful doughnut-like pastry covered in powdered sugar, and a black coffee.
"What exactly would you like to know first?"
"Um, everything. I want it all." I took a sip of the exquisite coffee; I'd have to come here more often.
"This ship is three hundred fourteen kilometers long, six-point-eight kilometers wide, and four-point-five kilometers tall. Right now we're at full capacity, which means there's a little more than one and a quarter million inhabitants," he paused momentarily as I guffawed in amazement, "We've broken the ship into forty-four primary districts for administrative purposes. The lower decks are primarily for gear and supplies the half million Marines stationed here require. The mid-decks are mostly residential housing with sixteen large cityscapes scattered throughout. Each cityscape is two square kilometers and has its own flavor; we have Latin, Chinese, Greek, French, Elysian, American, and several other cityscapes, all featuring those regions' traditional restaurants and parks. Right now we're in the French cityscape, and I have to tell you its my favorite. The upper decks contain most of the weapons and engineering, and the twelve command decks overseeing operations for each of our primary divisions."
"I think," I said after taking a bite from my beignet, "that I'll need a map."
"It's intimidating at first, but you get used to it. Besides, it's rare that you'll go too far. Most of the time you'll stay around the front of the ship, but I bet you really want to here about the good stuff: the weapons."
"Well, if you must!" I grinned.
"There are ten thousand strategically placed ninety-millimeter rotary cannon stretched along the hull for protection against enemy fighters and interceptors, and forty-eight big guys for everything else. Just in case the ten thousand cannon aren't enough, we have roughly sixteen thousand see-seven-oh-nine Longsword interceptors on board; with an air force presence of twenty-five thousand. "
It was all impressive, but I was lost in thought about the magnetic accelerator cannon. Most ships were lucky to have one, and a couple even had two, but forty-eight was unthinkable. Then again, a three hundred klick long ship was equally less likely to be in action. When I thought about it, I realized that this was a testament to mankind; a testament to our unwavering ability to make our killing machines bigger, more fatal, and easier on the eyes. If it didn't look like a gun then it couldn't hurt you, right? One day we'd find something out there, out in the darkness, that we couldn't possibly be prepared for. The biggest, most fatal, and prettiest gun we've ever seen; and then we'll put it to our heads and blow our brains out. Who the hell needed a ship this size anyway? We weren't at war with anyone, and to use this for the minor rebellions which cropped up on some shit hole backwater world every decade meant that a lot of someone's time and money had been wasted. It's not like we could get there anyway, I'd noticed the ship didn't have slip-space engines before boarding.
"The MACs on here are unique though, each one has independent targeting and firing capabilities; meaning we could essentially fight forty-eight different ships at one time. But we couldn't do any of this without ONI though. The AI they provided have made all of this possible, and in return they get to keep a small science lab on-board. We received fourteen regular ship AI for controlling vital systems, driving, and weapons during normal circumstances, but we also got seven of the smart ones. One of 'em is a cocky little bugger too. Patton I think, yea, that's his name. God damn computer thinks it knows everything."
"Well, technically it does. But it hasn't figured out that its just a computer yet."
"Oh well. It'll figure it out sooner or later. Hell, it better, we've integrated the thing with our weapons systems." We both laughed nervously at the thought that we'd given over our most vital control to a crazy computer. Better a computer than a human, I thought to myself. At least if we gave it to the computer it would run on logic and probability, and ultimately we could shut it down.
"Say," I asked, "what does it take to run all of this?"
"Twenty-six fusion reactors, actually. Ten reactors devoted to the primary engines, four for the computers and life support systems, six for electrical consumption, four to the weapons systems, and two on reserve in case."
"Just you know," he scratched the back of his neck and darted both eyes to the floor, "in case."
This road had hit a dead end surprisingly fast, time to change the subject. But I would have to go back and check into those "just in case" reactors. I doubted that the stingy High Command would allot two fusion reactors just because something might happen to one. Everything was so massive here, and my head was spinning from the overload.
"You said half a million Marines on board?"
"And twenty-five thousand Air Force."
"God, we could start our own war couldn't we?"
"With all of the weapons on this ship we'd win it too."
Suddenly, a small black radio attached to Joe's hip beeped wildly. He quickly clicked the large red button on the side and answered. The voice on the other end sounded cocky and powerful. The Commodore wrinkled his brow after a message my greedy ears couldn't decipher. He replied affirmatively to whatever had been said and quickly stood up.
"Excuse me, Admiral. I've been requested in cityscape seven; some hickup with the traffic systems there are playing hell with everything. Don't worry about the bill, it's been taken care of. Oh, and take my hog, for yourself. The bridge is straight ahead, you can't miss it."
I was shocked. He waved cordially and walked through the opened double doors, meeting a bright yellow warthog which sped quickly up to the entrance and sped just as quickly off. That was definitely not a military police hog, those were blue and white. I sipped my lukewarm coffee with distaste now, and grabbed the keys off of the table. What the hell was going on here? I'd been on-board for less than three hours and already had enough of what I assumed was black-ops shit to make my head spin.
Tales from the Transcendent: Flight Orders
My new assignment was shit, pure and simple. They didn't even coat it with sugar like they normally did, they just handed me a steaming pile of it and watched to make sure I'd eat it. Being dumb like I am, I sat down and put on my bib. I got my shipping papers three weeks ago, and had to be on board by today. But why exactly would I hate the Transcendent? That's what you're asking yourself; I know, because I asked myself that too. Well, that whole thing all started about three months ago on my old ship.
I'm a pilot, and I fly the C709 Longsword like most people wish they could drive a car. You'll think I'm egotistical when I say that I'm the best pilot in the fleet, but I am. I can't help it, I was born this way. Everything I do is easy, and most people would think that's good; which it is for the most part. There are two types of people who don't think that's good though: people who think they're smarter than you and bookies. Well, I'm big enough to handle the people who think they're smarter than me, but the bookies put up more of a fight.
The military is respected by almost everybody. Go fight, sacrifice yourself, and come home a hero. The part of the military most people see is what's on holovision at night; some grunt struggling through basic, half-assing his way over a log or through some mud hole on some backwater boot camp. What they don't realize; however, is that ninety five percent of the people who joined the military are just as scummy as the drug dealers and rapists on the street. Only, here they get to kill for free and pull in a government pension when they're done.
I was formerly stationed on the UNSC Fireball, a light assault cruiser out of Elysium IV. The Fireball and twenty-five other ships were pulled out of their cushy ports and dragged into this middle of nowhere to protect the manmade planet known as Transcendent. I'll admit it, this thing is extremely big, extremely well-armed, and extremely nice, but they needed fighter pilots, and lots of them, to protect her from something out there. I don't know anyone who'd be dumb enough to attack this son-of-a-bitch though; they'd have to be suicidal or downright stupid for that thought to even cross their tiny little minds.
I left my old ship with a good amount of accrued debt to a bookie named Sven. The rat bastard was so crooked you couldn't stare him straight in the eyes, so I found myself staring at the ground during most of our business transactions. He always had six pillars around him, and they followed closely wherever he went. Naturally I thought that the change of ships meant my debt was paid and I was home free, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The little Russian weasel turned out to be a Class A Quartermaster; which is how he got into his business in the first place. He'd sneak various supplies out of the storage to whoever had a bit of cash on him, and thus began his long and notorious career.
Last night Sven paid me a visit, and luckily for me his goons weren't with him. Poor lads probably didn't get transfer orders, but that wouldn't really matter. In a week he'd have six bigger, dumber dogs to do his dirty work. It was weird how we were reacquainted: I opened my door and he stepped in. Voila. The large, black gun in his hand scared me more than the low life trash goons ever had. I sat down on a large, plush velvet couch from my old ship and Sven took a seat in a leather recliner directly across from me.
"Sven! Old buddy. I was just coming to see you."
His eyebrows rose tiredly. Damn, he didn't fall for it.
"Do you know what I dislike, Major Petty?"
"Long walks on the beach, puppies, and children?" I responded sardonically.
"I dislike people who fail to hold up their ends of the deal. Where's my money?"
"I'm working on it! I told you that three weeks ago."
"Three weeks ago you disappeared into space. Luckily for me, my--dealings--within the ship provided me with access to transfer logs. "
"You mean you got a transfer to this ship just because of me?"
He frowned angrily, "No. I did this to kill two birds with one rock."
I couldn't help but smirk inside. He was a Russian who'd spent most of his life on one ship or another, but his English still wasn't perfect. I took out a cigarette and offered it to him; he shook his head with a look of disgust and crossed his legs. I peeled the quik-lite strip and saw the soothing red glare of burning tobacco at the tip.
"You see, not only can I keep my favorite customer, but I can expand my business base exponentially."
"Well, that's great," I said reassuringly, "and I'll be sure to pay you as soon as possible."
"No. No, that's not necessary," he said holstering his weapon. "Because you're going to help me."
Shit, I thought to myself. I took a deep drag on my cigarette and watched the tip sizzle and melt away. In a way the thing was symbolic of my life, dangerous and slowly eroding itself away. I'd made a lot of bad decisions in my life, but one day I'd have to go back and remember how the hell I got all tied up in this in the first place.
"What do you mean help you?"
"I've got a new customer. But you don't need to worry yourself about them. All you have to do is run some supplies for me. Simple."
"Run supplies for you? What do I look like, a delivery service?"
"Well, if you're going to be difficult about this," he put his hand back under his heavy leather jacket.
"How the hell am I supposed to deliver supplies for you? I'm a Longsword pilot for Christ's sakes! I can't just say 'Hey guys I'm going to run some illegal supplies see 'ya later'."
"You always worried too much," he said removing his empty hand, "my new customers have taken care of that for us. You'll have completely legitimate papers to wherever you have to go."
"When do I start?"
"You start tomorrow. There are only two rules to working for me: never open the shipment and don't ask questions. Any questions?"
There was a brief silence before he smiled and left the room. I slumped wearily against the red sofa cushions and watched the last bit of my cigarette fade into nothingness. The ashes crumbled into power in the circular blue ashtray as the last puff of smoke swirled into the air. I closed my eyes, sighed, and ran my hands through the thick brown hair. It had gotten drastically too long, and I'd have to get it cut soon or there'd be another demerit coming my way. God damnit Richy what have you gotten yourself into? I wondered curiously. Why the hell would anyone who could get official flight manifests still need to use some underground hack like Sven to transport supplies for them? None of this made any sense, but it didn't have to really. I did what he said or I woke up dead; it was that simple. My mind wandered through the darkness as I fell into the realm of unconsciousness, the land where nightmares and boogey-men haunted my every sleeping second, and ironically, the safest place I could be.