Posted By: Neo//hack<Hometokell@aol.com>
Date: 7 June 2003, 3:35 PM
"USS Serenity now pulling away from the docks. Stand clear."
Captain Fargo leaned over the pilot's seats, watching the rear-view display panel as the ship slowly backed out of the docking station.
A few crewmen from the Karunga waved briefly, then turned and headed for newly arrived vessels.
The Serenity cleared the platforms, then turned slowly and made its way through the bay doors and headed off into space. After clearing the doors, Fargo ordered the ship's engines be put into full throttle. The vessel roared off into the silent vacuum and eventually disappeared.
* * *
"Next stop, Captain?"
"Head for the closest mother ship. I want the extra soldiers stationed there to come aboard. We're going to hack into the Halo program today," Fargo told the operator. "Or at least try."
The operator checked her panels, then stated, "The closest mother ship, the Perfection, is approximately one hour away from our current position."
"Very well. That should give us just enough time to inspect the hacking system."
Captain Fargo sat down in his seat, then activated his display panel. The hologram screens crackled to life, reporting the current status of the vessel's internal systems and structure.
"Captain, we have two unidentified objects closing in at three hundred kilometers per second. We will have contact in one minute, thirty-five seconds."
Fargo stood and headed over to the operator. Leaning over her station, he whispered, "Can we activate the defenses yet?"
"Apparently, they were downed by an unknown cause yesterday while we were docked."
"In fact all the systems were knocked out. However, they recovered by themselves, whereas it required twice as long for the defenses to start self-recovery."
"How much time?"
"I'd say about one minute."
"How much time until we have contact?"
"One minute, ten seconds."
Fargo sighed heavily. "Ten seconds...jeez. Can we really fire two torpedoes and give them enough distance to detonate safely in just ten seconds?"
"I don't know. Probably not. At the velocity the projectiles are traveling, combined with the maximum velocity for the torpedoes, we probably won't have enough time."
"What else do we have?"
"Well...we do have EMP."
"Will that disrupt the projectiles?"
"I'm almost sure they're bombs, Captain. They resemble the same projectiles that were fired at the Haymeadow."
Captain Fargo sighed. "Then maybe EMP will disrupt the electrical current system and destroy the bombs."
The operator reached over and pushed a few buttons, each activating a different part of the EMP charge.
"This better work."
The operator pushed a larger button on the hologram panel, and a distant whine slowly grew.
"We'll have detonation in five...four..."
Captain Fargo anxiously looked up from the display panels and watched the two objects get closer and closer in the rear-view hologram panel.
The operators' voice was drowned out by the high blast of the EMP. The hologram panels flickered, flickered again, then briefly shut off. Captain Fargo slipped and fell to his knees as the ship rocked gently.
After a few seconds, the ship regained its original course and straightened. Fargo stood and waited while the display panels started back up again.
Once the screens were back online, Captain Fargo sighed with satisfaction as the display showed two small clusters of debris.
"Good. Keep the engines at full throttle. Let me know when we're about to dock."
* * *
"USS Serenity now docking aboard mother ship Freedom, docking bay 5, dock station 21. Level 6."
The Serenity slowly came to a stop between the platforms that formed dock station 21.
Once the ship was tied down with the securing chains, the loading ramp dropped and Captain Fargo was once again the first one to step down on to the platform. Fargo was greeted and escorted to the Commander's quarters.
"So, Captain," Commander Corwin turned as Fargo stepped into the room. Captain Fargo removed his gloves and tossed them on to the table in the middle of the room, then sat down.
"I understand you are requesting some extra Marines to have around."
Fargo could tell that Corwin was not a typical Commander. Something about him wasn't right. He wasn't as serious as he should be.
"For a good purpose, yes."
"Well, I'm not sure how much I can do for you. I have a few spare hands around here, though."
"You've heard of the Halo virus. I can tell."
Commander Corwin sat down as well. "Of course. Who hasn't?"
"Then you know why I'm here."
Corwin was caught at a loss. "You could say that."
"You're a smooth talker, Captain."
Fargo didn't smile. "I don't have time for games."
"Very serious, too. I respect that."
Fargo was silent.
Corwin stood. "Very well. I can send seven more soldiers. No more. My hands are tied around here."
"Seven? That's all you can send?"
"You can leave it if you want," Corwin responded.
"Fine. Get them ready to go. I hope they're experienced."
Fargo turned around as he headed for his ship, which was being loaded with replacement weapons, supplies and other necessities.
Four men and three women were walking over to him, each carrying a backpack of some kind. A strap hung over their left shoulders. They held a typical nine-millimeter pistol and several magazines of ammunition. Also carried in the straps were tools such as wrenches, hand held scanners, holographic wire-cutting lasers, and a few other items.
"You must be the soldiers I requested."
One of the soldiers stepped forward and indicated the other three men. "These three are Cain, Vincent, and Lance. I'm Irvine, and the three women over here are Natalya, Lara, and Reia."
"I see," Fargo replied. "I am Captain Fargo, ranking officer of the USS Serenity. You seven are now under my command for the time being. Once our mission is accomplished, you will return here to continue under your previous position. Understood?"
"Yes, sir!" The seven saluted stiffly, then turned and headed up the loading ramp and disappeared inside the ship.
Lieutenant Jackson stepped lightly up to Fargo, who was watching the bay doors open.
Fargo turned, startled, and responded, "Yeah. I'm not sure what will happen if we manage to make it inside the program. I just don't know what will be waiting on the other side."
"That's been concerning me as well. I don't think I'm as worried as you are, but it still bothers me."
"It's too strange right now. I mean, what will the construct be like? How will it work? How are supposed to destroy it?"
"I feel the same. I don't know what we can do. I'm not sure if Halo will respond in the same way to explosions it did when it existed physically. I'm just not sure."
Captain Fargo was silent for the last few seconds while the bay doors clanked to a stop, now fully open.
"Come," he said, heading towards the loading ramp. "We've got things to do."
"Are we online?"
The operator nodded. "The hacking system is ready."
Fargo left the bridge and headed into the control center, where the new hacking system was now located. The seven Marines were standing almost perfectly vertical in what looked like a cryogenic tube. A small disc was placed into each one's left ear. A wire was lowered and inserted into the disc, thus allowing the Halo program to be loaded. The Marines looked like they were asleep, laying still and almost lifeless inside the tubes.
Fargo stepped up to the platform and was helped into one of the tubes. He lay back and allowed the glass door to seal the tube and lock in place. A small, metallic sound rang out, and one of the discs he had seen was placed into his left ear. A small wire, attached to a robotic arm, was carefully inserted into the disc.
He closed his eyes. He could only wait nervously for the program to be loaded and for the door to another world to be opened.